Campaign news

Vote, Vote Vote for Seema and Billy

18th July 2017

Conference Arrangements Committee elections

VOTE FOR THE LEFT SLATE: SEEMA AND BILLY!

It is vital that that Party Conference is taken back for grassroots members. 

Look out for an EMAIL with a link to vote, from Labour HQ.  They will be going out this week.

NB You will NOT ordinarily receive a paper ballot paper unless you have not given the party an email address.

Vote for the Grassroots Candidates!

Seema Chandwani               X

Billy Hayes                       X

Seema Chandwani says, “In June Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto won additional seats and votes for Labour. We now need a Labour Conference that helps increase that support. If elected I will press for greater democracy and stand up for ordinary members.

Seema Chandwani (Tottenham CLP) is a Constituency Labour Party Secretary. Seema has been nominated by 152 Constituency Labour Parties.

Billy Hayes says, “Labour’s members are key to winning the next General Election. So Labour’s Conference needs to hear their voice, back the Corbyn leadership and set a clear agenda that is ‘for the many, not the few’.

Billy Hayes (Mitcham and Morden CLP) is a former General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union. Billy has been nominated by 154 Constituency Labour Parties.

Campaigning for a Labour Victory

NB - National Consitutional Committee is elected at Conference by delegates - but CAC is a One Member One Vote ballot.

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Do you Live outside the UK?

Dear Comrades,

There are a number of us who are members of the LRC, who live outside the UK. I think it would be useful to get together (virtually) to discuss the situation in Labour International and what we as LRC members might want to do together. The Left has taken control of the LICC (our CLP Executive) but we are facing apparent attempts by Labour HQ Staff to block straightforward initiatives, such as re-establishing a proper branch structure, participate in canvassing, holding people accountable for their actions and being able to run effective campaigns.
Please get in touch,

Colin O Driscoll (LI Co-Chair)
colin.s.odriscoll@gmail.com


 

 

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Good Work? Fat Chance

17th July 2017

Good Work? Fat Chance

By Mick Brooks

A year ago Theresa May became Prime Minister. She uttered these words on the steps of Downing Street:
“If you’re from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. You have a job but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home, but you worry about paying a mortgage. You can just about manage but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school.”

This soothing statement was followed by…precisely nothing. The following year has seen the Tories in office acting as the willing instrument of the bosses as they strive to squeeze more and more out of their workers.

Not only have working class living standards stagnated and fallen since the Tories took over, but there has been a massive increase in the insecurity of employment. This has been encroaching for decades but has jumped forward since the great Recession of 2008. The bosses have the whip hand, and they know it.

Never mind. Matthew Taylor, a former adviser to Tony Blair was commissioned by the government to review modern working practices. His report, ‘Good Work’, was published last week.

Taylor is an enthusiastic supporter of the present capitalist order. His report gushed the usual clichés. “Getting a job is the best way out of poverty.”...”Flexibility is a good thing.” All the same the review had to admit that many workers were getting too much of a good thing.
There are three main categories of workers who are super-exploited under the present employment system:

Workers on zero hours contracts (ZHCs). There are reckoned to be nearly a million toiling in the British economy on ZHCs. They have no security, no sign of when their next pay cheque will arrive and no chance of getting a mortgage.

The self-employed. There are reckoned to be more than 4 million self-employed and the number is increasing rapidly. The numbers are as cloudy as the definition.  Though some are genuine independent contractors, most are bogus. Unscrupulous lawyers have been hired by the bosses to use the definition of self-employment to hack away at the rights of those who are really employees

If you have to wear a uniform and clock in, are you really working for yourself? One advantage to the bosses is that they don’t have to pay sick pay or holiday pay to the ‘self-employed’. Bogus self-employment is booming in the burgeoning ‘gig economy’, where cab drivers or delivery cyclists in firms like Uber and CitySprint are deemed to be not working for a boss but under the direction of an electronic platform.
Agency workers. Between ½  and 1½ million count as agency workers. If you have a contact with an agency, then you’re not directly employed by the firm where you work such as Sports Direct. So it’s a classic cop out. ‘Not me, gov, I’m not responsible for your wages and conditions’.

One small reform Taylor advocates is the abolition of the ‘Swedish derogation’ for agency workers. A loophole in the EU Agency Workers’ Directive allows employers to pay agency workers less than those directly employed for doing exactly the same job. The TUC has been fighting this scam for years. But that’s about it.

How does the Taylor Report try to sort out the jungle of different employment conditions? It soothingly relates, “The best way to achieve better work is not national regulation but responsible corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations within the organisation.” In other words labour and capital should co-operate. But this would be ‘co-operation’ between horse and rider.

Co-operation. In the spirit of co-operation Taylor suggests that agency workers and those on ZHCs should be able to apply for permanent employment after a year. But employers need not accept the request. They could reject every request with impunity. There are no sanctions. Firms above a certain size should be made to publish how many requests they have received. So what?

Mike Ashley and other rotten employers are well aware that their profits come from the super-exploitation of workers at firms like Sports Direct. One reason they get away with it is that the law is well and truly on their side. Intimidation pays them handsomely.

Flexibility. Taylor is a big fan of the flexibility that helps employers make more money at the expense of permanent insecurity for their workers. He sees this flexibility as affording workers freedom. Mohaan Biswas, a motorcycle courier at Deliveroo retorts, “They do exercise control over us. It’s an illusion of freedom.” To quote Janis Joplin, “Freedom is a word for nothing left to lose.”

Taylor suggests that workers can be paid less than the minimum wage at ‘off-peak’ times, while they pay more at peak times. Who decides when off-peak times are? The employer. We either have a minimum wage, a level below which it is accepted that workers cannot live decently, or we don’t. ZHCs, agency work and bogus self-employment are methods that bosses can pay way below the minimum wage.

Regulation. Regulation is necessary because workers are being super-exploited. One DPD driver commented, “This isn’t self-employment or employment – it’s a living hell. The government needs to bring in legislation.” Taylor is not advocating that, and the Tories will never introduce laws in the interests of the working class – we need a Corbyn-led Labour government for that.

The contract of employment. One other problem is the definition of the employment contract in English law. There are three separate categories – workers, employees and the self-employed. Each has different rights and responsibilities and different time periods when these become legally enforceable.  How does Taylor propose to clarify the situation? He has added to the confusion by creating an additional category of ‘dependent contractor’, a definition which is as yet legally untested. 

The LRC’s position is quite clear. Workers, employees and the self-employed should all have the same rights, and they should be enforceable from day one. 

Employment Tribunals. Not only is Taylor unrealistically expecting sweet reason from exploitative bosses. He makes no proposal to make existing rights enforceable. There has been a collapse in the number of cases referred to Employment Tribunals since 2013. In 2013 the Tories introduced stonking fees, such as £1,200 for a claim of unfair dismissal. No wonder Employment Tribunals no longer work. Effectively existing workers’ rights that exist on paper have been made unenforceable. Taylor does not even protest against this.

Clearly the Taylor Review is just window dressing. Wolters Kluwer concluded on behalf of the bosses, “Employers need not fear the Taylor Report.” It doesn’t deal with the real and pressing problems that workers face in the twenty-first century. In any case the Tory government will just kick it into the long grass.

The LRC’s Programme of Employment Rights for a Corbyn-Led Labour Government

• End austerity now. We need a massive public investment programme.
• Establish the rate for the job. Bring back sectoral collective bargaining.
• Abolish zero hours contracts. Give workers security. It can be done. The right wing government in New Zealand has already done it.
• Give the bogus self-employed the same rights as other workers.
• Protect agency workers.
• Abolish the anti-union laws. A charter of rights for trade unions.
• Cut back the bosses’ unfettered rights over companies. Enfranchise employees, consumers and environmental protection as stakeholders in the company.
• Bring back free access to Employment Tribunals.
• Make blacklisting a crime. Treat blacklisters as criminals.
• For a minimum wage of £10 per hour.

A fuller analysis of employment rights is available:: here

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Fire Safety is a ‘Postcode Lottery’

17th July 2017

Fire Safety is a ‘Postcode Lottery’

Cut to the bone, Britain’s firefighting service is short-handed and in crisis. A number of at-risk buildings grows in wake of Grenfell

By Steve Sweeney and Will Stone
Morning Star July 15-16 2017-07-17

Tower blocks face a postcode lottery in firefighters’ ability to respond to emergencies, according to alarming new research published yesterday.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) study found that differing levels of fire service resources across the country have been damaging the ability to tackle blazes.
Bedfordshire has just two fire engines covering 664,000 people and no vehicles with long ladders or platforms to reach high-rise buildings.
In contrast Hampshire has eight fire engines and a machine — known as an aerial vehicle — to reach tall buildings.

Crew levels also vary between four or five firefighters per engine, the study shows.

Worryingly, although there are 125 aerial vehicles in England, just 33 are available 24/7 due to a lack of fire crew.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “These new findings are extremely concerning. In the light of the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower this situation is utterly unacceptable.

“We find it staggering that nothing has been done to address this grossly unjust postcode lottery of resources, and the fact that governments in all parts of Britain appear not to have even considered it is a disgrace.

“They now need to urgently instruct fire services to improve their fire and rescue planning to ensure a full and professional response to such incidents all over Britain.

“Citizens everywhere need to feel safe and confident that those in authority are taking their safety seriously. Anything less is, frankly, obscene.”
Mr Wrack has written to Prime Minister Theresa May today expressing his “concern and alarm” that the government has yet to implement a review into resources available to firefighters.

He also praised the London Fire Brigade for amending its planning following Grenfell to ensure any call to a similar fire receives a response of five engines and an aerial vehicle.

The research comes as Grenfell Tower survivors led a silent procession around the perimeter of the gutted tower block yesterday to honour the dead exactly a month on from the tragedy.

The commemoration led a grieving community on the march organised by Grenfell United, a collective created by those who escaped the tower block.
Hundreds also attended the funeral of Ali Jafari, one of the 80 people who have been confirmed dead following the blaze in the west London tower block four weeks ago.

Mr Jafari was separated from his family when he got out of the lift on the 10th floor as he was overcome by smoke.

It has been a difficult week for the west London community, marked by a number of vigils and fraught meetings with police and the authorities.

A map produced to mark a month since the disaster shows the enormous gulf between rich and poor neighbourhoods within the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Those areas that played a key role in the aftermath of the tragedy, including a site for the proposed rehousing of survivors, are located in some of the poorest parts of England.

Grenfell Tower is in one of the most deprived 10 per cent of areas in England.

And St Clement Church and the Clement James Centre which have been central hubs for the community following the fire are both in an area ranked among the 20 per cent most deprived.

By contrast Kensington Town Hall, where the council has faced angry protests for failing the community following the disaster, sits in one of the most affluent parts of the country.

Statistics show a deeply divided community with its average salary of £123,000, the highest in Britain, masking serious levels of poverty.
With a median wage of £32,700, the authority has the largest gap between these averages in the country.

Meanwhile the government has been urged to end its “fatal obsession with deregulation” by peers.

This article originally appeared in the ‘Morning Star’
In addition to being General Secretary of the FBU Matt Wrack is Chair of the LRC.

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Labour Briefing Readers’ Meeting

9th July 2017

Labour Briefing Readers’ Meeting

12.00 Midday, Saturday July 15th

After the General Election: What Next?

Graham Bash will lead a discussion on the tasks ahead and how Briefing needs to develop to respond to the new challenges

Venue: Daryl Ford Seminar Room, University College London, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1. Nearest tubes: Euston, Euston Square.

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URGENT: Labour Conference Registration Deadline for Delegates

6th July 2017

URGENT: Labour Conference Registration Deadline for Delegates

It is essential to register by FRIDAY 7th JULY.

YOU WILL NEED

Labour Membership Number: on Your Card

Passport Number

Passport Style Photo: 45 x 35mm

Counter Signatory: name, gender, length of time known, house number and email address of CLP Secretary or Chair.

Fee: depending on the type of pass you want.

Thanks to the Skwawkbox for this information:
More Details Here

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How the mighty have fallen

3rd July 2017

How the mighty have fallen

Matt Wrack (General Secretary FBU and Chair of the LRC)
The general election has opened a new period in politics and it looks like being exciting. The ‘winner’ of the election looks increasingly like the biggest loser. And the ‘loser’ looks increasingly like the real winner

Let’s remember that the election was called for cynical party political reasons by the party which had previously insisted on a fixed term Parliament in order to… stop parties calling elections for their own party interests. So far, so cynical.

May expected to gain an increased majority and, importantly, as much time as possible to allow the chaos of any Brexit negotiations to settle down before a return to the polls in 2022.

Her other strategic aim was to crush the Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party and the very idea of Corbynism. By this I mean not Jeremy Corbyn’s actual or immediate policies, but the idea that politics could head in a different direction - the very idea that there can be an alternative to the way things are.

After two years of Labour infighting the opinion polls supported her expectations. Commentators rushed to predict how crushing the defeat would be and, I suspect, most of us worried at various times that we faced an impossible climb. But the campaign began to turn the tide almost immediately. It was obvious from the start that Jeremy loved being out campaigning - it is one of his strengths. May, on the other hand, appeared wooden and lost, desperately avoiding speaking to any real people and most definitely any face-to-face debate.

The press threw everything they could at the Labour campaign - and particularly at Corbyn and McDonnell. It was obvious to all informed opinion that May was in for the thumping majority she expected. So she put on her wings and prepared to fly back to Downing Street. But wax still melts if you get too close to the sun. On election night the exit poll applied the first heat and the temperature increased with each result.

May and the Tories have come crashing down to earth with an angry bang. Instead of triumph, humiliation. Instead of stability, total and utter chaos.

Labour’s remarkable recovery will have boosted the morale of everyone involved in our movement. It has shown that we can resist, we can put radical ideas to the public and win support. Young people in particular have demonstrated a brilliant ability to cut through or ignore all the garbage spouted by the Daily Mail - indeed they largely don’t even see it.

We are left with a minority government in utter crisis. At the time of writing, May looks like the obvious loser in a chess game, desperately trying to avoid the final move of the game and looking increasingly forlorn as she plods around the board.

In these circumstances, Labour needs to prepare for the various possibilities we face, including a general election in the near future. Here are a few quick suggestions.

Build campaign resources in the marginal constituencies: We should build Labour Party membership and organisational capacity in the marginal constituencies. That should include full-time workers able to prepare on the ground for an election whenever it comes.

Immediate demands in Westminster: The Tories have no mandate for many of their policies. We should demand an immediate end to the public sector pay freeze and to any further cuts to public services.

One Million Members: We should aim to build quickly towards a million Labour Party members. There must be structures put in place to welcome them into the Party and encourage participation.

Step up the campaign for party democracy: We want unity but we also desperately need democracy in our party. The next few months need to see a clear plan to democratise all aspects of the party structure: conference, the administrative machinery and selection processes.

The Labour Party should be run by and for its members - and that includes the hundreds of thousands who have joined to support Jeremy Corbyn. The mass expulsions, purges and suspensions need to end.

The election has shown that anything is possible. Those who appear to be in solid positions of power can suddenly and dramatically be weakened - in this case by the intervention of the electorate. This project - of rebuilding our movement with radical and socialist policies - is still in its early stages. Onwards.

This article originally appeared in ‘Labour Briefing’. the magazine of the LRC

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Grenfell Tower: the deadly consequences of under­funding of council housing

3rd July 2017

Grenfell Tower: the deadly consequences of under­funding of council housing

By Martin Wicks

Kensington & Chelsea Council documents confirm reports in the media that Leadbitter was “the proposed contractor” for the work on Grenfell Tower. It gave a
price of £11.278 million1
. However this was £1.6 million above the council’s proposed budget. So they put it out to tender again. 
A council update on the Grenfell Tower
work read:
“The refurbishment of Grenfell Tower is a large and complex project and time and careful
planning has been required to ensure that the proposals and design of the scheme meet
the requirements of residents, RBKC and Planners. Particular focus has been required to
ensure that the project representing value for money and can be successfully delivered to
the satisfaction of residents.”

“Value for money”, of course, in the context of cash strapped councils often means shortcuts,
cheap and shoddy work. In this case the question is posed, did this “value for money” decision lead to the deaths of Grenfell Tower residents? The contract went to
Rydon for £8.77 million, 22% less than Leadbitter’s tender. 

   The type of cladding fitted to Grenfell Tower is banned in Germany and the USA for tall
buildings. It has been reported that the cost of a more expensive ‘flame­ retardant’ cladding
would have been somewhere in the region of an extra £5,000. Omnis Exteriors told the
Telegraph that it had been asked to supply the cheaper cladding to installer Harley
Facades, which Rydon contracted to do the work for them.

   That the use of any combustible material in cladding is allowed is extraordinary. Part B of
the Building Regulations states that “the external envelope of a building should not provide
a medium for fire spread…The use of combustible materials in the cladding system and
extensive cavities may present such a risk in tall buildings.” BUT it only says that any
insulation product should be of “limited combustibility”. Why it appears to be legal to use
combustible materials is a question which will have to be answered. Why isn’t the use of
non­combustible material obligatory? As long ago as 1999 the House of Commons
Environment, Transport & Regional Affairs Committee produced a report, Potential risks of
fire spread of buildings via external cladding. It said:
“We believe that all external cladding should be required to be entirely non­combustible, or
to be proven through full­scale testing not to pose an unacceptable level of risk in terms of
fire spread.”

This and similar recommendations afterwards were simply ignored.

Under­funding of council housing
In the context of austerity and the reduction of local authority budgets “value for money” is driven not by the quality of work done but by shrinking funding. What has yet to come to
public attention is the question of the extent to which the under­funding of council
housing contributed to this life­destroying cost­cutting exercise. What is particular about council housing 
is that it is not funded by central government.
(“An Update on Grenfell Tower Improvement Works and the recent power surges” July 16 2013 Kensington &
Chelsea Housing & Property Scrutiny Committee.)
Each local authority which maintains ownership of council housing stock has a separate account, 
the Housing Revenue Account. More than 90% of HRA income comes from the rent and service charges which tenants (and leaseholders) pay. Since HRAs have no subsidy the
maintenance and renewal of housing stock which councils are able to carry out is entirely
dependent on how much rent councils take in. Any decline in rental income results in
councils having to cut back on the work they can do on their properties. All stock owning
local authorities have less income than they planned for as a result of government policies.
Moreover, as a result of central government instructing them to cut rents by 1% a year for
years, they now face an absolute decline in their income at a time when inflation is
increasing. Building work inflation is usually higher.

   In 2012 a new council housing finance system, ‘self-­financing’, was introduced. The new
system had been designed by New Labour just before the 2010 election but was
introduced by the coalition government. The centralised council housing finance system
was ended. What was nominally national housing debt was redistributed amongst all the
stock owning councils. A large majority of councils were loaded up with over £13 billion
additional ‘debt’, whilst a smaller number had their debt reduced by £5 billion. The £8
billion difference was pocketed by the Treasury.

   In order to pay off this ‘debt’ local authorities were given a ‘loan’ by the Public Works
Loan Board (PWLB) equivalent to the amount of extra ‘debt’ imposed on them. Councils
are also charged an annual interest rate for the ‘loan’. The PWLB is an agency of the
Treasury. Of course, in reality there was no money involved. It was an accountancy
exercise between the Treasury and the PWLB. 

   Under the new system council HRAs were better off than previously because what was
called the ‘negative subsidy’ system was ended. A large majority of councils suffered
‘negative subsidy’ whereby they had to hand over part of their rental income to the
Treasury each year. Under ‘self-­financing’ the debt and interest on the ‘loans’ from the
PWLB eats up a large part of their income. In 2015­16, according to the Local Government
Statistics for England, local authorities paid £2.143 billion in debt charges and interest
payable. This was 27% of expenditure and 25% of their total income. Only 34% of their
income was spent on repairs and renewal of housing components.

   Kensington and Chelsea council was given an extra £24.960 million debt, a relatively low
amount compared to many councils. It had what was supposedly ‘historic debt’ (associated
with borrowing to build homes in the past) of £185.204 million, giving it a total debt of
£210.164 million. In 2016-­17 its HRA paid interest on borrowing of £9.921 million, nearly
17% of its income of £58.692 million . On top of this it paid the Tenant and Management
Organisation £10.825 million which was responsible for managing the work on Grenfell
Tower.

   When ‘self­-financing’ was introduced councils were told by the government that the ‘debt
settlement’ would enable them to have sufficient income to maintain their stock over 30
years. This was highly questionable. Tenant organisations, the House of Commons
Council Housing Group, and even the Local Government Association called for the writingoff
of the so called debt because in reality tenants had paid more in rent than the cost of
the actual borrowing for the building of housing stock. But the demand was rejected both
by New Labour’s Housing Minister John Healey, and by the coalition.

Individual tenants are subsidised if they receive housing benefit which covers all or part of their rent. 
The Housing Revenue Account, however, receives no government support, with the exception of some
 support for ‘supported housing’ for people with disabilities

   No sooner had the system been introduced than the coalition government undermined
the ‘business plans’ of councils with a series of measures which significantly reduced their
planned for rental income. These changes included:
● The introduction of a new rent policy such that councils had to put their rent up by
CPI+1%, less than the previous formula which was based on RPI;
● An increased discount for RTB which led to a fourfold increase in sales. This meant
that councils were losing far more rent than planned for. Each home sold is future
rent lost ;
● The abandonment of the commitment to 10 years of rent increases of CPI+1% and
the introduction of a 1% rent cut for each of four years.

These measures alone mean that councils are losing billions of pounds of income over the
lifetime of their 30 year business plans. I don’t have a figure for Kensington, but in the case
of Swindon the council will collect an estimated £365 million less rent than built into their
projections. This is before the policies in the Housing & Planning Act are taken account of.
The Act included the imposition of enforced sale of ‘higher value’ homes  (to pay for the extension of ‘right to buy’ to housing associations) which would cut the rental stream
further. As a result there would be lower surpluses available to maintain housing stock.
The decline of rental income was undoubtedly one of the factors in the pressure to
spend as little as possible on work like that on the Grenfell Tower.£87 million shortfall over 5 years

At a meeting of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee of Kensington Council in
March of this year, just weeks before the Grenfell disaster, the Housing Director gave a
report of the finances of the HRA. She explained that the financial outlook would be
“significantly affected” by a number of policy announcements over the last 18 months.
Such was the impact of government policies that there was a shortfall of resources for
capital spending (renewal of key components of the properties) of £87 million over the
next five years alone. The level of investment required for the stock is estimated at £146.1
million (including backlog work of £53 million) but the council only has £59 million
available. 

The Director said:
“This level of investment will have a negative impact on the likely level of residents
satisfaction with the service. In the short term it is anticipated that reduced level of
investment will enable the delivery of the (Kensington Housing) standard that will meet the
health and safety requirements for the stock and keep it weatherproof. However, there will
be an increasing challenge to meet the requirements in the medium and long term.”
This “increasing challenge” is diplomatic language for insufficient funds to maintain the
stock. Clearly Kensington council’s HRA has insufficient resources to maintain the
condition of its stock and will be forced to spread reduced income more thinly. In this
context it is very easy for a “value for money” rationale to lead to work which is cheap and
shoddy and may have implications for the safety of the tenants.

   One of the questions which will have to be answered relates to the difference between
The receipts for sales will have to be handed over to government to compensate housing 
associations for the difference between the sale price of their homes and the market price.

the price quoted by Leadbitter and that by Rydon for the Grenfell Tower works. Was there a
difference between the components proposed, such as the type of cladding? Was the
council aware that Rydon was using more flammable form of cladding? Or did it insist on
its use? There are other questions relating to health and safety which I will deal with
separately. But what is indisputable is that the under­funding of HRAs creates a a financial
crisis in which decisions on funding of work such as that at Grenfell Tower are made. Not a
single council which owns housing stock has sufficient funds to maintain them to a decent
standard.

Reopen the ‘debt settlement’ – cancel the ‘debt’
As a result of this council housing funding crisis and its impact on Swindon Swindon
Tenants Campaign Group raised with our Council the need to call on the government to
reopen the 2012 ‘debt settlement’ because the amount of debt that each council was given
was based on an estimate of income completely out of line with what is actually being
collected. When they introduced ‘self­financing’ the government gave itself the power to
“reopen the debt settlement”; in other words to change the debt payments if there was
some material change in the circumstances of councils. 

   The government document “Implementing self­-financing” in reference to this power
stated 
“This provision is necessary to protect both the government and local authorities from
being locked into a deal that, because of changes to policy affecting either a landlord’s
income or costs, no longer reflects a fair valuation and could have a material impact on
viability. It could be a major change in national rental policy…”

A “major change in national rental policy” is exactly what happened, twice. Councils are
“locked into a deal” which has a material impact on the viability of their HRAs.

   The catastrophic events at Grenfell Tower underline the disastrous consequences of
under­funding council housing. Whilst the impact in many areas will not be so deadly, the
fact is that the current funding of council housing does not provide sufficient money to
maintain the standards and the living conditions of existing tenants never mind building
new council housing.

   In November of last year Swindon Tenants Campaign Group produced a pamphlet,
“The case for cancelling council housing debt”, which explained the roots and the
consequences of this under­funding. This so-­called debt was the result of creative
accountancy by central government, through which tenants have been fleeced for many
years by the Treasury. Cancellation of this debt would provide councils with hundreds of
millions of pounds extra each year for the maintenance of their stock and to a minor
degree for building new homes.

   The Grenfell Tower fire demands a range of issues to be addressed, including 
● weak and dangerous building regulations which allow combustible materials to be
used in cladding; 
● the impact of cuts in the fire safety organisation of local Fire brigades which inspect
properties; 
● the sub­contracting culture which makes it difficult for council departments to keep a
tight control on what is being done. 

But the question of under­funding council housing also needs addressing as a
matter of urgency because the sort of penny pinching which led to combustible material
being used in external cladding, and a questionably low budget for the work on Grenfell
Tower, is the result of the shortage of money which HRA’s have.

   Our pamphlet (‘The Case for Cancelling Council Housing Debt’) was directed at the Labour 
Party leadership. We called on them (sadly thus far without effect) to press the government to reopen the 
debt settlement and to commit to cancelling the council housing debt if elected. Grenfell Tower underlines the
importance of this proposal without which the under­funding of council housing will have
negative consequences, in some cases potentially deadly ones.

   One final point. If it proves necessary to replace the type of cladding used on Grenfell
Tower and other buildings, since it was legal to use such materials, then central
government should commit to funding it. Making council HRAs do so when they are
grossly under­funded would only lead to other important work being postponed.

Martin Wicks, 
Secretary, Swindon Tenants Campaign Group

PS. The sort of priorities which the Kensington & Chelsea Council have can be seen when
you contrast the small sums of money involved which could have prevented the Grenfell
Tower catastrophe, with the decision of the ruling administration in 2014 to give some of its
richest occupants, according The Metro, those paying the highest band, a Council Tax
rebate of £100,

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Grenfell Tower tragedy: why?

16th June 2017

Grenfell Tower tragedy: why?

By Mick Brooks

First we must offer our condolences to the friends and relatives of the victims of this terrible event. We don’t know what caused the fire. We don’t know what the final victim count will be.  We do know that this should never have happened and must never happen again.

First we need to spell out the positives. The work emergency services, particularly the firefighters were tireless and heroic. The response from the local community to support those made homeless was brilliant. Volunteers have been working all the hours.

Unfortunately the official reaction from Kensington and Chelsea Council and the Tory government has been at best dilatory and at worst an attitude of stony indifference.

The horrifying pictures of the flames leaping up the tower block show that Grenfell Tower was not properly fireproofed. Yet there had been a refurbishment last year. The visual evidence in the photos is that the cladding actually fed the flames.

The type of cladding used can have a plastic or a fire retardant mineral core. Plastic cladding is banned in the USA, but plastic is cheaper. A fire retardant core in the cladding for the whole of Grenfell Tower would only have cost an extra £5,000, but someone thought saving a little money was more important than saving the lives of working class people.

Likewise the tenants have been complaining that the gas pipes recently installed were not boxed in with fireproof materials. The fire alarm installed during the refurbishment was inaudible. The emergency instruction to stay in your flat in the event of a fire may have led to the death of tenants of the tower.

Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick, a former firefighter, has queried why sprinklers were not installed as a safety measure. Former Tory Housing Minister Brandon Lewis admitted automatic sprinklers save lives, but said it was not the government’s responsibility to encourage developers to fit them. Apparently they are expensive, so the decision should be left to the builders.

The ‘Guardian’ has accused, “a government in hock to a grasping building industry running a policy of austerity that has starved local councils of cash”. Cuts kill.

The refurbishment was carried out by a firm called Rydon. As usual these days much of the work was subcontracted out. So we have a chain of subcontractors, none of whom are responsible for the success and safety of the project as a whole. Each can blame the others for any faults. Rydon has responded curtly to questions and deadbatted to the effect that existing building regulations were adhered to. So that’s good enough, then.

In 2009 there was a fire at Lakanal House, South London, in which six people died. The coroner made a number of recommendations in order that no such tragedy should ever happen again. His recommendations were ignored. It was quite clear then that existing building regulations were inadequate for fire prevention. The government has since dithered and dithered. No new regulations have been drawn up.

Grenfell Tower was social housing. Management of the block was handed over by the Council to Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation. KCTMO has relentlessly brushed aside complaints from the Grenfell Action Group for years. The tenants seemingly have no way of making their concerns and fears known. The Grenfell Action Group commented in 2016:
“It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders. ..Unfortunately, the Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation.”

KCTMO’s bureaucratic arrogance is part of a wider problem. Kensington and Chelsea is one of the richest boroughs in one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the world. Yet the area around Grenfell Tower is desperately poor and has been treated by the Council, Tory since the year dot, like part of the third world. Volunteers and donations flooded in after the disaster, yet those people desperate to offer their help complain of a lack of co-ordination that should have been led by the Council.

Boris Johnson as Mayor of London closed three fire stations close to the area. Paul Embury, the Regional Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, predicted at the time that he would have “blood on his hands. It will be only a matter of time before someone dies because a fire engine did not get to them in time. You cannot close 10 fire stations and slash nearly 600 firefighter jobs without compromising public safety.” When questioned about the closure of frontline services in London at the London Assembly, Johnson told his critics to “get stuffed”.

The Grenfell Tower tragedy has unleashed widespread and justified anger. The incident shows that, to the Tory establishment, working class lives just don’t matter. It shows all that is wrong and rotten in Tory Britain. The government is offering an enquiry. The fear is that this will just kick all the problems raised into the long grass.

There is understandable panic among high rise residents all over the country about their own safety. They deserve better than bland assurances from the likes of KCTMO. We need proper answers and we need them now. If plastic cladding is a fire hazard, then it must go, no matter how much it costs. Austerity is all too often penny wise and pound foolish.

In the meantime the plight of those made homeless must be urgently addressed. Residents of Grenfell Tower fled in their pyjamas and lost everything. They have to be urgently rehoused. They must be housed nearby with their families and friends in support, and their children’s access to their local school maintained.

That is why Jeremy Corbyn’s call for empty houses in the Borough to be requisitioned is correct and necessary. There are almost 20,000 empty homes in London, more than a thousand in Kensington and Chelsea alone. Many of these are owned by shady trusts operating out of tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, as what even Boris Johnson described as “gold bullion in the sky”. It is grotesque that, in the face of desperate human need, these houses remain empty. Hopefully the Grenfell Tower tragedy will be a wake-up call, leading to a major reversal of the priorities in Tory Britain where profit is more important than people.

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Getting Involved with Labour

13th June 2017

This is just the sort of thing new Labour Party members need, courtesy of Sheffield Momentum:

here:

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General Election 2017: how did we do?

13th June 2017

General Election 2017: how did we do?

By Mick Brooks

This was the best Labour general election campaign I have participated in my life. There was unprecedented enthusiasm on the streets and estates. People with red rosettes were greeted everywhere with thumbs up and car horns honking in support.
• The Tory press was vituperative. The Sun’s headline on election day was “Don’t chuck Britain in the Cor-bin – vote Tory unless you want a friend of terrorists who’s ready to open our borders and hike up taxes as your next PM”.
• The Tories resorted to outright lies – for instance they invented the threat of a Labour ‘garden tax’ a couple of days before the election
• The Conservative manifesto was completely uncosted. For instance the Winter Fuel Allowance was to be means tested but they couldn’t tell us who would get it and who wouldn’t, We were supposed to take it all on trust and vote for them anyway.
• They went through endless wobbles and reversals, most notably on the ‘dementia tax’ and the cost of social care.
• Their attempt to run a Presidential campaign around May’s supposed leadership on Brexit negotiations failed utterly. May was in effect demanding dictatorial powers for the duration of the negotiations.
• ‘Robotic’ was the most common description of her conduct. May evidently wanted the job but wouldn’t turn up to debate – equivalent to not turning up to the job interview
• Even the two terrorist attacks during the campaign redounded against the Tories as it drew attention to the 19,000 plus cuts on police numbers imposed by May since 2010.

Tory Britain in 2017 is one of food banks, rough sleepers and people hanging around for hours on trolleys in A & Es.

• Even the Tories know that social care is in crisis,
• The NHS is on life support,
• Real spending per head is in decline
• There is a housing crisis.
• Austerity and stagnant living standards seem likely to stretch on for ever, as long as the Tories are in charge.

Labour’s programme is actually a moderate social democratic one but, because it jettisons the timorousness of pervious Labour leaders and their adherence to austerity light, it comes across as a breath of fresh air which we can unconditionally support. It points out a clear alternative to Tory cuts and austerity. It has definitely struck a chord among the electorate.

The election results show that the penny has dropped with the working class – it is a matter of hope against despair. Austerity is a political choice by the Tories to shrink the welfare state, not an economic necessity. There really is an alternative. It is Labour’s programme ‘For the Many, not the Few’.

There are regional variations, but the national swing to Labour was almost 10%. This is the biggest improvement in Labour’s vote since 1945. Back then the previous general election was in 1935 and quite a lot had happened in between (such as the Second World War).

The conservatism and pessimism of the entrenched Labour Party bureaucracy meant activists were actually involved in defending seats that were completely safe rather than taking the fight to the Tories. The ‘Independent’ said only 2.227 strategic votes could have delivered Number 10 to Jeremy. Is it just conservatism, though? The Skwawkbox has provided evidence that the Party machine deliberately defunded some key marginals. If so, this was sabotage.
Read it here:

The UKIP vote has collapsed and the party is in disarray. Interestingly, a lot of working class Brexiters have come back to Labour rather than collapsing into the Tory vote. They know the Tories are and always will be the class enemy.

The LibDems are likely to remain a minority party. They are indelibly scarred by their period in coalition, propping up Tory austerity.

In Scotland the second referendum is off the agenda for the time being as the SNP licks its wounds. It could revive later under Tory rule.

1¾ million young people registered to vote. They overwhelmingly   voted Labour. Their politicisation must be cherished for the future. Social media played a role in undermining the grip of the Tory press.

The Tories actually don’t have a clue as to their policies on Brexit negotiations.  What are they going to do about the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy, the land border in Ireland, Gibraltar, jobs, workers’ rights, environmental protection, consumer welfare? The list goes on and on. Labour must expose this inadequacy and go on the attack.

There continues to be a split in attitudes between metropolitan area and abandoned working class communities, particularly in the Midlands and North, on the issue of Brexit. Areas that have deindustrialised over decades were more likely to express their discontent by voting ‘Leave’. Labour’s campaign meant that working class people who had mainly voted to ‘Remain’ in some areas or to ‘Leave’ in others could all get behind our programme.

The right wing MPs in these abandoned communities which voted to ‘Leave’ have taken the working class vote for granted. They have not even raised the issues of the destruction of secure, permanent employment for working class people and the casualisation of jobs for the young.  They seem not to have noticed what has been happening before their eyes. Yet even their vote was buoyed up by the national campaign.

In 2015 Labour Party members realised a fundamental change was needed. They realised the New Labour era was over. They elected Corbyn as leader.

This year there has been a big change in the consciousness of major sections of the electorate. Neoliberalism has been seen to have failed. Working class living standards have fallen for a decade for the first time for 200 years, and are likely to fall further. Millions have decided to vote for an alternative.

This is a sea change. To the ongoing economic malaise is added a political crisis caused by the Tories’ self-inflicted defeat in this election. They have now lost control of the situation. It is unstable – anything can happen.  Theresa May will go – probably sooner rather than later. Another election is likely within a year. The Tories are desperately trying to build some sort of coalition arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party. They will exact a high price and provide no prospect of a stable government.

We have seen that the Corbynist surge is still resisted by many of the old guard in the Party. There remains an entrenched bureaucracy. Too many councillors and MPs regard their posts as jobs for life and are impervious to the changing political mood.

For us in the LRC the crisis is an opportunity. There is a widespread mood for radical change. Socialist policies can now being proposed as a serious alternative to wider layers of the population. We must seize this opportunity. We must:
• Remain on an election footing
• Keep building the Party membership
• Target the political education of new members
• Get behind and promote Labour’s programme
• Continue the battle to democratise the Party.
• Prepare for the Party AGMs likely to be held in the next month or so.
• Get ready for the September Annual Party Conference

 

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Don’t Believe the IFS on Labour’s Programme

30th May 2017

Don’t Believe the IFS on Labour’s Programme

The Institute of Fiscal Studies has set itself up as the oracle on economic policy. David Cameron (former failed Prime Minister) regarded its judgements as “the gold standard.”

In fact the IFS is made up of mainstream economists. Mainstream economics is a faithful reflection of establishment politics. Let us remind ourselves that none of the orthodox economists saw the Great Recession of 2008 coming – the biggest economic cataclysm since the Second World War. In the 2001 issue of the ‘International Journal of Forecasting’, an economist from the International Monetary Fund, Prakash Loungani, published a survey of the accuracy of economic forecasts up to that time. He concluded: “The record of failure to predict recessions is virtually unblemished.” More recently Robert Chote of the Office for Budget Responsibility confirmed to the ‘Financial Times’ that “forecasts are always wrong.” Mainstream economists are incapable of forecasting economic trends, and that includes the IFS!  This is because they don’t really understand how the capitalist economy works.

The IFS has come out in support of the Tory programme to replace cooked school lunches with breakfast. In fact the proposal is arithmetically wildly astray. If there were a full take-up of the breakfast, the proposed budget would allow just 6.8p in ingredients for each child! How many Coco Pops is that? Nutritionists and educationalists are strongly against the Tory plan. The IFS is not an expert on these matters. It should listen to the experts, not lord it over them. It is half-witted to think that the Tory breakfast will be as nutritious as the cooked lunch provided to some school children now.

The IFS is correctly scathing about the Tory manifesto. Essentially it offers more of the same failed austerity policies we have had to put up with over the past seven years. Moreover it is completely uncosted. How many pensioners will lose their Winter Fuel Allowance – six million; ten million? The government won’t decide till after the election – if they win. How many will lose their homes on account of the ‘dementia tax’ on social care costs? They’re not saying. None of their proposals are costed. Are we really supposed to vote for this? The IFS indicts the Tories with proposals for, “big cuts in welfare spending” and “another parliament of austerity for the public services, including an incredibly challenging period for the NHS and cuts to per pupil funding in schools.”

Presumably in the interest of ‘balance’, after rubbishing the Tory manifesto, the IFS even-handedly slags off Labour’s manifesto ‘For the many, not the few’:
“The shame of the two big parties’ manifestos is that neither sets out an honest set of choices. Neither addresses the long term challenges we face. For Labour we can have pretty much everything – free [higher education], free childcare, more spending on pay, health, infrastructure. And the pretence is that can all be funded by faceless corporations and ‘the rich’.”

This comparison is outrageous. There is a fundamental difference between the parties. Labour’s manifesto is carefully costed; the Tories’ is pie in the sky. In addition to the 128 page document Labour has produced an annexe called ‘Funding Britain’s Future’ which weighs up the cost of the £48.6bn in promises and shows exactly how they will be paid for.

For instance the cost of childcare subsidies is £4.8bn. This is the figure Jeremy Corbyn was unable to remember when he was called out on ‘Women’ Hour’ on May 30th. OK, he hasn’t got an infallible memory, but the commitment to policy reform is there and is fully costed.  What’s the problem?

Labour’s commitment is that £48.6bn will be raised on taxes on corporations and the rich to match the spending commitments, and 95% of us won’t pay a penny more. The IFS queries this:

“That is an overestimate. They certainly shouldn’t plan on their stated tax increases raising more than £40 billion in the short run, and more likely than not they would raise less than that. They would certainly raise considerably less in the longer term.”

Where does the IFS get the ‘only £40bn’ from? It doesn’t say. Unlike ‘Funding Britain’s Future’ which is painstakingly referenced, the IFS comes up with a pure assertion – a guess.

We have seen a huge increase in inequality in Britain since 1979, the year Thatcher was elected. She inherited a top rate of income tax of 83%. The following year she cut it to 60%. Successive Tory governments favouring the rich have edged the top rate down to 45%. Why should it be impossible for a Labour government to raise it to 50p, as Labour’s manifesto proposes?

Similarly with corporation tax: in 2010 it stood at 28%. The Tories have cut it to 19% and it is due to fall further to 17% by 2020. Why shouldn’t Labour put it back up to 26%?

The IFS presumably argues that higher tax rates will act as a disincentive, so rich people won’t work as hard and corporations won’t invest if they are taxed more. Hang on. Did anyone notice the investment surge when corporation tax was cut by the Tories? Did the economy get a boost as rich people worked harder when the top rate of income tax was cut? No, these were just gifts by the Tories to the rich and their big business backers.

The overall result on tax cuts for the rich and big business would be a race to the bottom. US corporation tax is at 35% (though there are loopholes). Donald Trump wants to cut it to 15%. Would Tory Britain go lower and load the whole burden of taxation on to the poor and the working class?

In the longer term, the IFS argues, rich people will move abroad to avoid paying tax. So, instead of getting £6.4bn, Labour might only get £4.5bn, or £2.5bn, or nothing. Where do they get these figures from? They made them up. They are Tory propaganda masquerading as economic analysis.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell admits there is uncertainty in the exact take from the programme, “which is why we have allowed headroom” (£3bn) “in our plans.” The IFS argues that the rich have a better chance to avoid tax. That is true. The difference is that a Corbyn-led Labour government would be on the side of ordinary working people, not servants of the tax-dodging rich and powerful like the Tories. As John McDonnell said of how we extract from the rich what they owe:

“We know it is harder than squeezing ordinary households. A substantial tax avoidance industry has grown up to help those mega-rich and corporations that want to duck their tax obligations to society, as the Panama Papers and other leaks have exposed. So it may be easier for the Tories to tax ordinary working people through stealth taxes, like the shocking rise in cremation and burial fees, and let their big business backers off the hook, but Labour won’t duck out of taking on the tax dodgers.”  We’ll take them on.

Then the IFS comes up with a very old anti-socialist argument from orthodox economics about taxation on companies. It’s really a tax on our pensions invested in the corporate sector, so we’d be cutting off our nose to spite our face. In other words really we’re all capitalists! This is rubbish. There is no clear link between company taxation and the level of share prices. Economists, including those at the IFS, can’t help themselves. Every phoney argument shows them to be lackeys of the rich and powerful.

The IFS critiques Labour’s plans to protect the income of pensioners by keeping the triple lock, not means testing the winter fuel allowance and maintaining the retirement age at 66. They complain that this could cost up to £50bn in 50 years’ time. Excuse me. If the Tories are still in power in 50 years’ time the National Health Service, social care and any trace of the welfare state will have gone up in smoke long ago. The urgent need is to stop them now – next week in the general election!

Then the IFS moves on to criticise Labour’s fantastic pledge to raise the minimum wage to £10 per hour by 2020, lifting millions out of in-work poverty in the process. It’ll cause a loss of jobs, the IFS asserts. We’ve been here before.  When Labour originally proposed a national minimum wage the then Tory leader Michael Howard, speaking from the heights of economic orthodoxy, described it as “a piece of staggering economic illiteracy.” He predicted it would cause “between one and two million more unemployed.” It didn’t happen. He was only between one and two million out in his prediction!

Labour is accused of dishonesty. In fact the IFS is dishonest, rubbishing our programme with wild assertions and no evidence, from the discredited premises of orthodox economics while pretending to be impartial. Labour is campaigning for hope and a better future for Britain. Support them with all your might next week.

 

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Labour or Tory – Who’s Credible?

20th May 2017

Labour/Tory – Costing and Credibility

Labour’s 2017 Election Manifesto has been widely welcomed. It can fairly said that it contains something for pretty well everyone. The pledges in ‘For the Many, Not the Few’ are carefully costed. They come to £48.6bn The 128 page Manifesto is accompanied by an 8 page documented called ‘Funding Britain’s Future’ (link below), fully referenced. This document costs every single item in the Manifesto. The total cost is £48.6bn. The figures add up. Labour showed that 95% of the population would not pay an extra penny. Only the rich would contribute a little more.

Immediately the Tories and their press hirelings started banging the drum about Labour bankrupting Britain. Unnamed ‘experts’ were adduced in the Tory press to rubbish Labour’s arithmetic, saying the reforms will cost more money. The ‘Daily Mail’ contented itself with vague assertions that the programme will cost more than Labour claims – with no proof. The ‘Sun’ went further, declaring that it would lead to £30bn more borrowing. Not a shred of evidence was presented to prove this point.

What the Tories seem to have homed in on were the proposals for nationalisation and for investment in the Manifesto. We are told that Labour proposes to take over the railways, energy and water. All these proposals are very popular, including among Tory voters. It is widely recognised that the privatised utilities have run amok, ripping off consumers and garnering monopoly profits.  Actually complete nationalisation is not on the table.

Labour proposes to take over the franchises of the Train Operating Companies as they expire. What is the cost to the taxpayer? Zilch, nothing, not a sausage. This is what happened after private owners National Express walked away from the London to Edinburgh franchise. The publicly owned East Coast franchise then took over and delivered £1bn back to taxpayers. The Tories couldn’t abide this. They gave the franchise to Virgin and Stagecoach, so the rip-offs could resume.

As for the proposals on energy, the Manifesto is much more cautious in its proposals. Having made the points about millions living in fuel poverty thanks to privatisation of gas and electricity the Manifesto begins, Labour will:
“Regain control of energy supply networks through the alteration of operator license conditions, and transition to a publicly owned, decentralised energy system.”
Labour goes on to propose:
“Supporting the creation of publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers.”

Now, whatever you think of that, it’s not exactly a call to storm the Winter Palace. It’s a cautious, conditional approach to a real problem, in what even Theresa May has described as a ‘broken’ market.

Similarly with the supply of water, life’s prime want, and the postal service, publicly owned since 1516. Labour pledges to:
• “Replace our dysfunctional water system with a network of regional publicly-owned water companies.
• Reverse the privatisation of Royal Mail at the earliest opportunity.”

None of this is to happen on day one of a Labour government. Yet presumably these tentative proposals are what cause Tory reps to shriek about a £58bn tax black hole in Labour’s Manifesto. Where do they get the £58bn figure from? They don’t say. They made it up.

The figure first made the light of day in a car crash interview Chancellor Philip Hammond had on the ‘Today’ radio programme on May 17th.  He was asked how much theHS2 rail programme would cost. His guess, for that is what it was, was 63% out. This is a bit of a worry, as Hammond is supposed to be running the economy and the HS2 project. Then he unleashed the £58bn scare story. Jon Humphreys reminded Hammond that he was confusing and mixing up current and capital spending. Again this is even more of a worry as this bloke is also supposed to be an accountant. His goofs would shame an Accounts Clerk in their first week at college.

Labour is committed to subsidise all current spending from current taxation. That is clearly set out in ‘Funding Britain’s Future’: “Labour will therefore set the target of eliminating the government’s deficit on day-to-day spending within five years.” So Labour will eventually pay down the deficit in government spending they will have inherited from the Tories.

Labour will borrow to invest. Even the International Monetary Fund thinks the present government is bonkers for not investing in capital items which will make Britain richer in the future now that interest rates are effectively negative. This is free money, and that is exactly what Labour is proposing to do.

When the Tories launched their manifesto, there was no accompanying booklet like ‘Funding Britain’s Future’. Nothing has been costed. John McDonnel l reckons there are 60 uncosted promises in their manifesto. This is pathetic, an insult to the electorate.

The worst example of this is probably the Tory proposals for the ‘reform’ of social care. The National Pensioners’ Convention calls the proposals, a ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ of bolted-together bad policies that will damage pensioners and place an unfair burden on their families. The NPF representative explained:
“Over 500,000 people receive care at home at the moment. Under the current system, the value of their property is not taken into account, just their income and savings, but under the new Tory plan the property value will count too… Now everyone who owns a property will pay in full. That’s a huge change and it will affect a significant proportion of those 500,000 people - at least half, so a minimum of 250,000 older people.”

Most homes in the UK in 2017 cost far more than the £100,000 threshold, so homes will have to go to pay care bills. The NPF knows about these things, and it is worried. By contrast the Tory press is lying to pensioners about the effect the proposed changes will have on them.

The ‘Daily Express’ rushes to reassure pensioners about the Tory proposals, calling them ‘fairer’. This from a paper whose commitment to telling the truth ha run to headlines like ‘Diana: MI6 had tunnel murder plan, says spy’. Likewise the ‘Daily Mail’ headlines ‘You Won’t Have to Sell Home to Pay for Care’, the direct opposite of the truth.

As part of their triple whammy against pensioners, along with abolishing the triple lock, the Tories propose to get rid of the universal winter fuel allowance. Who will still get it in a means tested system? They can’t or won’t say. One proposal is that only the poorest pensioners entitled to pension credit will receive the winter fuel allowance. The trouble with this is that one million pensioners on less than £160 for a single person don’t claim pension credit? Why not? Have you seen the length of the form they have to fill in? That shows in a nutshell why universal benefits work and means testing deprives people of what they’re entitled to.

The Tory proposals are dishonest and shot through with holes. Labour’s reforms are carefully costed and credible.

As John McDonnell commented, “She’s having a blank cheque. You would not let someone go off to the supermarket with a blank cheque, take things off the shelves and not tell you how much they’re going to pay for.”

Labour’s costings in full are here

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Tory Manifesto: blood, sweat toil and tears – for what?

18th May 2017

Tory Manifesto: blood, sweat toil and tears – for what?

The Tory general election manifesto for 2017 has been accurately described by Skawkbox as ‘the stupidest suicide note in history’. What the Tory Manifesto actually promises is more pain, pain, pain.

The Tories have been in office since 2010. Theresa May has been a Cabinet member throughout that period.
What have they achieved?
• Housebuilding is at the lowest level since the 1920s. As a result fewer people can afford to buy homes and rents are going through the roof.
• Real spending on education per child is declining. While starving public education of funds the government is wasting hundreds of millions on building free schools that are not needed.
• The NHS is in crisis. Waiting timers for operations, and for dealing with emergencies, are beyond acceptable levels. All this while the Tories are showing their priorities by cutting corporation tax and taxes on the rich.
• Even the government agrees that social care is in meltdown. We’ll see from their manifesto how they propose to deal with the situation.
• Above all, since the Great Recession struck in 2008, living standards for the majority have fallen and won’t recover till 2022. This hasn’t happened since the Napoleonic Wars. How do the Tories deal with this?
    They don’t talk about it. They pretend it hasn’t happened, because they think we’re all stupid and haven’t noticed. After all, they and their backers are doing fine. Look at the Sunday Times Rich List for 2017. It that showed the richest 1,000 in the land increased their wealth over the past year to £658 billion.

Theresa May doesn’t want a normal Parliamentary election based on the Tory record. No wonder. They have failed. They declared their prime economic target was to get down the government debt by imposing austerity on the mass of the population. In fact the debt was under £1 trillion in 2010. Now it’s over £1.6 trillion, and still rising. George Osborne promised to eliminate the deficit, so the debt would stop going up, by 2015. He failed. Now Philip Hammond is putting the break-even date back to 2025. Should we believe him?

What May wants is a Presidential election on her as negotiator on Brexit. She is demanding dictatorial powers - to do what? To sell us a pig in a poke. Less than a year ago May was campaigning to ‘Remain’. Now she’s for Brexit. Her outfit is clueless. Every day new issues pop up. What about?
• Gibraltar. OMG. Never thought of that!
• The land border in Ireland. Why didn’t somebody remind her?
• What will replace the Common Agricultural Policy? They haven’t a clue.
• The Common Fisheries Policy. Ditto.
• Etc, etc, etc.

May and the Tory press accused Labour of wanting to go back to the 1970s. Our Prime Minister apparently holds an idealised picture of the 1950s. From her childhood she recalls dimly a bucolic fantasy of grammar schools and fox hunting.

The Tory manifesto is a recognition of past failures and a promise of more to come
. • The triple lock on pensions is to go. Pensions have been pledged to rise by prices, earnings or 2 ½%. In some ways this was a cynical promise. Pensioners are very likely to vote, and far too many of them vote Tory. If the triple lock goes pensions will be cut, no doubt about it.
• The pensioners’ winter fuel allowance will be means tested. £200 is not a lot of money considering even Theresa May considers the energy market is ‘broken’. In other words a previous Tory government dismantled the public sector provision of gas and electricity and let a bunch of monopolists screw the elderly and everyone else with their racketeering energy bills. Thanks a lot, fellas.
• Free meals for infants to go. This is outrageous, and so petty. Remember Margaret Thatcher? She was dubbed the ‘milk snatcher’ when,as Education Secretary, she abolished free school milk. Now Theresa May follows in her footsteps as the meal snatcher.
• The Tories are noticeably coy about promising to hold taxes down. The only pledges are not to hike VAT and corporation tax. In 2010 they inherited a 28% rate of corporation tax, which they have slashed to 19% with just 17% to come. Most of us are not corporations, so that is no benefit to us. All other taxes are liable to be hiked by the ‘low tax’ Tory party
• In 2015 the Tories lyingly promised they would cap social care costs to £72,000. The day after the election, that promise disappeared up in smoke. What they are doing now is to tell people to sell their houses in order to pay for social care. You can stay in it while you’re still alive (how kind!), but it should be paid to cover your social care debts after death. When Labour came up with a similar proposition in 2010, the Tory press savaged it as a ‘Death Tax’. What’s changed?   
• The Tories are also promising more money for the NHS. Hang on, a minute. Isn’t this the same wretched shower who’ve been starving our health service to death for the last seven years?
• The Tories promise controls on migration. The LRC has a clear position on this, in favour of free movement of workers. All the same the Tories, and Theresa May as Home Secretary for six years in particular, have spectacularly failed to reach their own target to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands.

That raises the final question: why should we believe any of this? The social care proposals, and many other plans, have a ‘back of a fag packet’ feel. The Tories know working people are anxious and deeply unhappy with the way things are going in Britain. It is quite obvious they delayed their own manifesto launch to see what other parties were proposing.

May called this election. She had nothing positive to offer the British people. The Tory campaign is based on fear. Labour offers hope. Vote Labour and sweep away the Tories like a bad dream.

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Campaign for Socialism in Scotland

16th May 2017

Campaign for Socialism in Scotland

Campaign for Socialism is the Scottish sister organisation of the LRC. It is working to elect Scottish Labour Party candidates in every constituency across Scotland.
However, of those candidates, we are proud to announce that a significant number of them are CfS members and supporters. The candidates and constituencies can be found below:

Douglas Beattie (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale):
Lesley Brennan (Dundee East): Alan Cowan (Dundee West): 

Ian Davidson (Berwickshire, Roxburgh, and Selkirk):

Laura Dover (Kilmarnock and Loudon):
Angela Feeney (Motherwell and Wishaw):
 
Hugh Gaffney (Coatbridge, Chryston, and Bellshill): 

Cara Hilton (Dunfermline and West Fife):

Matt Kerr (Glasgow South West):
Patsy King (Edinburgh East):

Helen McFarlane (Airdrie and Shotts): 

Carol Mochan (Ayr, Carrick, and Cumnock): 

Gordon Munro (Edinburgh North and Leith): 

Joanne Ross (Ochil and South Perthshire):

Danielle Rowley (Midlothian):

Rhea Wolfson (Livingston):

Christopher Rimicans (North Ayrshire and Arran): 

Details here:

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Parliamentary Candidates the LRC Particularly Backs

13th May 2017

Parliamentary Candidates the LRC Particularly Backs

Good Guys

Here are some Labour candidates you will be proud and privileged to campaign for.
We think Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North), John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) and Diane Abbot (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) are safe in their constituencies, but back them up anyway.

Lend a hand in:
• Battersea (currently Tory) to Marsha de Cordova
      Blyth Valley to Ronnie Campbell
• Bolsover to Dennis Skinner
      Brighton Kemptown to Lloyd Russell-Moyle,
• Broxtowe to Greg Marshall (taking on Anna Soubry)
• Derby North to Chris Williamson (Tory majority just 412 in 2015)
’    East Worthing & Shoreham to Sophie Cook,
• Edmonton to Kate Osamor
• Hastings and Rye to Peter Chowney
• Islington South and Finsbury to Emily Thornberry
• Lancaster and Fleetwood to Cat Smith (majority 1,265 in 2015)
• Leeds East to Richard Burgon
• North West Durham to Laura Pidcock
• Norwich South to Clive Lewis
      Rochdale to Tony LLoyd
• Rotheram to Sarah Champion
• Salford and Eccles to Rebecca Long-Bailey
• Wansbeck to Ian Lavery
      Weaver Vale to Mike Amesbury
• Wirral West to Margaret Greenwood (majority just 417 in 2015)

This campaigning tool from Momentum may be helpful here
Readers and supporters are welcome to nominate other candidates to the list.
       

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General Election 2017. How You Can Help

12th May 2017

General Election 2017
How You Can Help

The LRC supports every Labour candidate. Below is a list of the most marginal constituencies in Britain..
             
                                                                  Challenger                                                   Swing Needed                                        
Gower           Conservative                 Labour                   Maj 27                               0.1%
Derby North       Conservative           Labour                 Maj 41                               0.1  
  City of Chester Labour Chris Matheson Conservative               Maj 93                               0.2
Croydon Central Conservative               Labour                   Maj 165                               0.3
Ealing Central & Acton Labour Rupa Huq Conservative               Maj 274                               0.5
Ynys Mon (Anglesey) Labour Albert Owen Plaid Cymru               Maj 229                               0.7
Vale Of Clwyd Conservative                       Labour               Maj 237                               0.7
Brentford & Isleworth Labour Ruth Cadbury Conservative               Maj 465                               0.8
Bury North Conservative                       Labour               Maj 378                               0.8

Since the UKIP vote is likely to crumble away to the Tories these are other Labour marginal seats also at risk.

Margaret Greenwood – Wirral West Majority: 417 (0.9 per cent) Second place in 2015: Conservatives
Holly Lynch – Halifax Majority: 428 (1 per cent)  Second place in 2015: Conservatives
Daniel Zeichner – Cambridge Majority: 599 (1.1 per cent) Second place in 2015: Liberal Democrats
Wes Streeting – Ilford North Majority: 589 (1.2 per cent) Second place in 2015: Conservatives
Paul Farrelly – Newcastle-under-Lyme Majority: 650 (1.5 per cent) Second place in 2015: Conservatives
John Woodcock – Barrow & Furness Majority: 795 (1.8 per cent) Second place in 2015: Conservatives
Tulip Siddiq – Hampstead & Kilburn Majority: 1138 (2.1 per cent) Second place in 2015: Conservatives
Joan Ryan – Enfield North Majority: 1086 (2.3 per cent) Second place in 2015: Conservatives
Peter Kyle – Hove Majority: 1236 (2.4 per cent) Second place in 2015: Conservatives
Paula Sheriff – Dewsbury Majority: 1451 (2.3 per cent) Second place in 2015: Conservatives

Thanks to Momentum, who have provided this campaigning tool:
here

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Vote Labour! The People v the Establishment

29th April 2017

Vote Labour! The People v the Establishment

Statement of the Labour Briefing Editorial Board

After repeatedly promising there will be no snap election, Theresa May has called one for June 8th. The pious vicar’s daughter has shown herself to be a squalid liar. As leader of the Tories that she called ‘the nasty party’, she is determined to remain Prime Minister of the nasty country. We don’t want Britain to be that country.

Economic policy since 2010 has been dominated by the policy of austerity. The false mantra is that the country can’t go on spending more than it earns. We’re in debt, the Tories say. So, savage cuts to social spending have been the order of the day.

Despite the crocodile tears May has shed about the plight of working class people, the cuts have continued and intensified on her watch.
Since 2010 there has been a blitzkrieg against welfare benefits which has caused even Iain Duncan Smith to protest. Further in April 2017:
• Child tax credits have been limited to two children. This will ‘save’ £1.2bn by 2020.
• The ‘family element’ of child tax credits worth £545 p.a. will be abolished, cutting a further £540m.
• Half a million disabled people will lose £30 a week in benefits. Another £350m cut.
• Young people under 22 will not be eligible for Housing Benefit, saving the Treasury £105m.
• Widows will be collectively £100m worse off.
And, don’t forget, working age people’s benefits will be frozen till 2020 while inflation eats away at their purchasing power.

All this was enacted in the first few days of April. May has no intention of reversing the thrust of Tory policy, which is to load the burden of austerity on the poor.
While the poorest are being mugged, how do the rich and big business fare?
• In 2008 Corporation Tax was 28%. It’ll be 19% this year and 17% by 2020.
• The threshold for Inheritance Tax is to be raised.
• The levy on banks, introduced after the 2008 financial crisis to reduce risky lending, will be cut.
All this will cost £20bn in lost revenue by 2022. The Tories have money to burn on rich people. Forget the propaganda about how ‘we’re all in this together’. The Tory fight for austerity is really about redistributing wealth towards their natural supporters – the rich and powerful.

Have they succeeded in cutting the national debt? No. In 2010 it was about £900bn. Now it stands above £1.5trn. The deficit is the amount by which spending exceeds revenue, so that the debt goes up. George Osborne pledged to get rid of it by 2015. He left office as a failure. Now his successor Philip Hammond admits the deficit will be around our necks till the 2020s. The austerity policy has failed. As Jeremy Corbyn says, austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity.

Theresa May claims she is calling the election, as the ‘Daily Mail’ puts it, to “Crush the Saboteurs”. There is no sabotage of the Brexit process. In fact the government is clueless as to what it will do in the negotiations. It is thereby heading for the hardest of hard Tory Brexits, where workers’ rights, the environment and consumer protection will be tossed aside in a race to the bottom.

May is anxious to cover up the fact that she is stumbling around in the dark by claiming dictatorial powers over negotiations unopposed for the next two years. She dare not face Parliamentary or democratic scrutiny. Don’t let her get away with it.

There is so much more that is wrong, wrong, wrong about a Tory Britain under Theresa May:
• She held hands with the warmonger Trump.
• As Home Secretary she sent vans round with the message, “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest” in order to stir up racism.
• The SureStart programme and other Labour reforms have been progressively neutered.
• The latest Housing Act is intended to strangle the last vestiges of social housing provision.
• Real spending per pupil is declining in our schools while the government wastes hundreds of millions of pounds on building unwanted free schools.
• There are heartless deportations of people who have lived in Britain for decades as a foretaste of Tory Brexit Britain.
• The NHS is bleeding to death under her watch.
• The social care system is in meltdown.
• There is a regime of endless cuts, particularly for local councils which are supposed to provide parks, libraries, youth centres and all the other facilities people need.

The Tories boast about record employment in the UK. There are indeed record employment prospects - in insecure jobs which don’t pay enough to keep a family afloat. People are desperate. Productivity has stagnated in Britain since 2008. What future is there for us all under the Tories?

Most important of all, living standards for most will have fallen between 2008 and 2022. This has not happened before since the wars against Napoleon. This is the key fact behind the discontent in British society. According to the Resolution Foundation, “A typical family with children is set to have a lower disposable income (after housing costs) in 2020-21 (£18,300 in current prices), than a typical family this year (£18,900).”

Another five years of this would be hell for working people. a country where food banks have become a pathway to survival for so many and rough sleepers can be seen in every town.

We have to move heaven and earth to get a Labour government. It is clear that the Corbynist revolution is as yet unfinished business in formulating a programme for change.

All the same - what does Labour have to offer?
• A £10 a week minimum wage for all over 18.
• A ban on zero-hours contracts. A regular contract will be on offer after 12 weeks.
• End the public sector wage freeze.
• Renationalise the railways.
• Build 200,000 houses a year - half of which should be council-owned.
• Free school meals for all primary school pupils, to be paid for by putting VAT on private school fees.
• No further extension of grammar or free schools. For comprehensive education.
• The top rate of income tax on people over £150,000 should go back up to 50%, with a higher rate also proposed for those on over about £75-80,000.
• We will reverse the Inheritance Tax cuts, cuts in Corporation Tax and other taxes on the rich and big business, reclaiming £70bn.
• Carers’ allowance to go up by £10 a week.
• Scrap the bedroom tax.
• Stop the privatisation of the NHS, saving £5bn - put an end to the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) bloodsuckers and the outsourcing of health contracts to private firms like Virgin.
• Bring back bursaries for student nurses.
• Keep the winter fuel allowance and the triple lock on pensioner benefits.
• Stop the tax dodgers. No more sweetheart deals between HMRC, the tax people, and big business. Close the £36bn tax gap.
• Stop firms based in tax havens from bidding for public sector contracts.
• Fight a hard Tory Brexit intended to wipe out employment protection and turn Britain into a low-tax sweatshop.

Instead of permanent austerity Labour is pledged to invest in our infrastructure, creating one million quality jobs in the process. We will invest £500bn in high speed broadband, energy, transport and homes helping to create a high-skilled, high-tech, low carbon economy.

That’s a better Britain, one well worth campaigning and fighting for.

 

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LRC Statement On Syria - April 2017

10th April 2017

Donald Trump’s response to the death of “beautiful babies” caused by the latest chemical gas attack in Syria has been to kill a few more. Reports suggest at least four children were killed in the US missile strike on a Syrian airbase in Idlib province. The British government fell into line calling the US action “appropriate”.

Jeremy Corbyn’s statement about the attacks correctly said that the “horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account. But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.”

Meanwhile, US airstrikes in North-Eastern Syria and around Mosul in Iraq are inflicting scores of casualties on a daily basis. Except for one recent occasion when a single coalition airstrike on Mosul killed nearly 300 civilians, this relentless bombardment has scarcely been considered worth reporting by much of the media.

The response of western powers to the suffering of the Syrian people at the hands of the Assad regime, rebel groups, ISIS and other external forces seems mired in hypocrisy. The British government itself granted export licenses to a UK manufacturer less than five years ago to allow to be sent to Syria the ingredients that constitute the chemical weapons most likely to have been used. Trump, having demanded that the previous Administration do nothing to bring down the Assad regime when it was at its weakest, now intervenes when it appears to be winning its bloody civil war. It would not be too cynical to suggest that his policy is simply one of prolonging the Syrian conflict to prevent the emergence of any power in the region that could destabilise US interests.

Trump’s intervention has done nothing to bring peace or a resolution of the conflict to the Syrian people and in practice has increased international tensions with other powers globally. Only negotiations leading to a comprehensive political settlement can resolve the war in Syria – now an urgent priority for all who claim to want to stop the atrocities being perpetrated by many sides in the conflict.

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BFAWU supports the Labour Party’s £10 an hour minimum wage pledge

10th April 2017

By Ian Hodson

It’s great news that a mainstream political party has recognised the importance of taking positive action to raise pay. Since 2008, politicians from all parties along with many in the media, have pushed the narrative that society will somehow improve by imposing austerity and blaming minority groups for the state of the country’s finances. Sadly, many have fallen for this deception and the ‘look over there’ politics that has rose to prominence since the Conservatives returned to power in 2010.

Low pay and exploitative employment contracts are a blight on the economy and an insult to taxpayers, who have to foot the bill for in-work benefits whilst businesses and corporations count the profits. Labour’s announcement that they will raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour in the event of a general election win in 2020 is very welcome and should be applauded by all in our society.

The BFAWU has long argued that rather than being used to fill the bank accounts of wealthy business owners through the use of in-work benefits, our taxes should be used to properly fund our NHS and other public services that we rely on. By raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour, we can take a giant stride towards making that a reality.

The introduction of a £10 an hour minimum wage would be a game-changer for millions of working people, who are struggling to make ends meet, many of whom work in the food industry.

The BFAWU fully supports this pledge by Labour and as one of the party’s longest standing affiliates, we will continue to make the case for a Labour government in 2020.

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£20 Billion In Tory Tax Giveaways To Big Business And A Wealthy Few

10th April 2017

By John McDonnell MP

Labour research reveals that the Tories’ tax changes that came into effect on 1 April will see £2.5 billion in tax giveaways alone handed out to big business and a wealthy few in 2017/18. The figures also reveal that by 2022, this could total around £20 billion, which includes over £2 billion in corporation tax giveaways to big corporations like Google in the next year alone.

These changes will take place at the same time as the Government goes ahead with billions of pounds worth of cuts to low income working families on in-work benefits.

The Tories are taking working families for fools by thinking they can hand out billions of pounds in tax giveaways to big business and the super-rich and expect no one to care, while at the same time cutting in-work benefits to the low paid.

These figures show the true priorities of Theresa May and Philip Hammond. They refuse to ensure that big corporations like Google pay their fair share, while they are handing out huge tax giveaways worth billions, and cutting the incomes of low paid people in our country.

Only Labour will create a fair tax system: one in which all big businesses pay their fair-share and working families are supported by ending the tax giveaways at the top, bringing in a £10 an hour Real Living Wage by 2020, and reversing the cuts to in-work benefits.

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Tories Cut PIP Payments To 160,000 Disabled People

10th April 2017

By Ian Malcolm-Walker

Around 160,000 people, mostly with mental health issues, will lose their entitlement to help with getting around under Personal Independence Payments (PIP). The Tories claim this is not a cut but only reversing an entitlement that they never intended. That is a lie.

Under the old Disability Living Allowance, the lower mobility component was available to someone who needed guidance or supervision to follow an unfamiliar route. This included blindness, some mental health problems such as anxiety, autism, learning difficulty, etc.

Under PIP, eight points are needed. Due to the weighting of the descriptors, these can be scored only by someone who cannot undertake any journey due to distress, or to someone who cannot ‘follow the route of an unfamiliar journey’ alone.

The government now claims that recent judgments have broadened the way the PIP criteria should be interpreted, going beyond the original intention. Last year when the government did a U turn on PIP but not on Employment and Support Allowance, it promised no benefit more cuts this parliament which is why it has to make out they never intended to help people with mental health issues.

Had this been true, there would have been an even bigger fuss in 2012 during the consultation on the PIP assessment criteria and Regulations. Indeed in response to the consultation, the government said, “Concern was raised that the activity takes insufficient account of the impact of mental health conditions on mobility. We do not consider this the case. Individuals could potentially score in a number of descriptors in the activity if they cannot go outside to commence journeys because of their condition or need prompting or another person to accompany them to make a journey.”

A full DPAC briefing is at http://dpac.uk.net/2017/02/briefing-mps-lords-changes-pip-regulations/

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New membership system

4th April 2017

We will shortly be moving to a new online membership system for those of you who pay online. It will allow new members to self-register and existing members to renew online.  The benefits are:


• You will be able to amend your details yourself, including address changes and email changes.
• You can have a separate email account from your paypal email account
• You will receive automatic acknowledgement of renewals/payments
• We can capture information beyond what’s in your paypal details
• We can send out reminders regularly
• You will still be able to choose which membership rate applies to you.

 

For those of you who pay by cheque or standing order, there is no change, you can still download the renewal forms from the new system – which is called MemberMojo.
For those of you currently in arrears you will receive reminders immediately the system is switched on.  We believe that the information uploaded is as accurate as possible, please advise if you find your account to be incorrect – or indeed change it yourself.
There will be a short period where our existing membership system is switched off, while we transition from the old system to the new.

 

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We Should Defend and Extend Migrant Rights, Not Take Them Away

1st April 2017

By Hugh Lanning

The wave of hatred that is sweeping Britain blames migrants for a wide range of social ills. We should not pander to anti-immigrant sentiment in a race we cannot win and should never want to,” says the founding statement of the Alliance for Free Movement.

For years Labour accepted austerity for fear of losing electoral credibility; now, it seems, we are doing the same on immigration. In going along with the myths, Labour is seeking an unholy grail it will never find - the ‘progressive anti-immigration policy’ that will win back Labour’s traditional votes. Immigration is a real issue that has to be confronted, but not by accepting the lies which have made it so toxic.

Lie No.1 is that immigration is the cause of the problems many people face. The real danger here is that we will be exposed by Lie No.2. If immigration is not the cause, then stopping it will not solve the problems. Lie No.3 is that we can stop immigration - we might drive migration underground into the hands of criminals, but we won’t stop it.

Lie No.4 is that we want to stop migration and don’t need it. As the Brexit negotiations unwind, it will become clear that we do need migration, as we have an aging, under-skilled population. But what is being proposed is a selective immigration policy - if you are white, rich or skilled, that’s fine. If not, we still might want you, but we don’t want to give you rights to remain. Lie No.5 is that migration is a bad thing. In fact migration is an essential factor in our heritage and history. It has enabled us to become a rich, multicultural country and is essential for our future prosperity, too.

The key to tackling public perceptions of immigration is developing a communitybased approach which improves both migrant experiences and the lives of host communities - making the best of all parts of the community, neither isolation nor forced integration. There is a natural integration that flows from working, whether you are a migrant or not. If you are unemployed and poor you are isolated, whatever your colour or religion.

Migration is not a short-term or temporary event, but needs long-term solutions. We must invest in work-based solutions - training and upskilling for all who need it, ESOL courses, skill centres, Sure Start and care provision. This will only happen if everyone is given the chance to earn a legitimate living and treated as productive residents who will contribute to the economy.

It is not enough to describe the general effects of migration - positive or negative - at the macro level, it needs to be honestly set out locally as well. There should be a community needs analysis that looks at skills, jobs, taxes, population, housing and the environment. This would define the public service and investment needs for the community. Then - constituency by constituency - Labour would be able to set out the issues and answers based on real community needs, not just fears and prejudices.

Having identified the needs, Labour should advocate the required investment to ensure there are resources to match. If done with community involvement, we can build progressive local alliances to fight for common aims: public service investment; public, affordable housing in the regions of fast growth; skills training to fill skills gaps; and protecting workers’ rights.

We have a choice: building an island fortress or investing to make migration safe and secure for migrants and communities alike. Border controls should be rights-based, about security, crime and customs control with staffing to match.

However, the main investment should be in strengthening all those enforcement agencies involved in regulating the rights of people at work. Rather than trying to ‘catch’ individuals at the border we should invest in creating safe workplaces, ensuring employers comply with employment rights and implementing properly the law concerning health and safety, minimum wage, tax and national insurance, gangmasters and people trafficking.

Economist Jonathan Portes says as a result of Brexit, “we will probably be poorer.” His point is that it is wrong to believe we are somehow ‘trading off’ the economic benefits of the Single Market against the downsides of free movement. Restricting trade, capital flows and immigration - reducing the openness of the UK economy - all have negative economic impacts. “If we want to make an economic success of Brexit, that will mean making openness - to migration as much as trade - a priority in our policies with respect to both the EU and the rest of the world”, he explains.

Freedom of movement is not the problem - it is part of the solution in or out of Europe. We should defend and extend migrant rights, not take them away.

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The Government Is Playing Dangerous Games With Local Government Finances

1st April 2017

By Teresa Pearce MP

The National Audit Office (NAO) have stated that implementing 100 per cent business rates retention before the Government’s Fair Funding Review has been published will result in an untested and potentially unfair system being imposed on already struggling councils. In the context of seven years of brutal and relentless cuts to local government, that is a risk that councils cannot afford.

That is why Labour has continually called for 100 per cent business rate retention to be delayed until after the Fair Funding Review is complete.

The report also finds that the research has not been done into whether business rate retention is genuinely driving economic growth, and the resources do not exist to do so sufficiently. As it stands, this scheme is ideologically-driven but lacks any solid evidence base.

Local government is facing a £5.8billion funding gap by 2020. There is a national crisis in social care with 1.2million frail elderly people and one in five vulnerable disabled people being left lonely and isolated. Libraries, youth centres and Sure Start centres have closed. Child protection services are creaking, and homelessness is rising.

Public services provided by local councils are the lifeblood of our communities and the Government must think more carefully before implementing these potentially catastrophic changes.

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We Must Tackle Outrageous Pay Disparities

1st April 2017

By John McDonnell

When Jeremy Corbyn was questioned in a recent BBC interview about high pay he raised the prospect of introducing pay ratios to address the outrageous disparities between the pay of company directors and chief executives and the workers in their companies. As usual he was pounced upon by the media and the Tories but what emerged within hours was the overwhelming popular support there was among the general public for the idea of tackling pay fairness by means of pay caps and pay ratios.

Since then broadcasters and journalists have returned to the idea to see how the argument for fair pay can be reframed and undermined. The usual line of attack is to contest whether the proposal for pay ratios is either justifiable or feasible. Recently the justification for Jeremy’s proposals for the introduction of pay ratios received a significant boost by the publication of the report by Pensions and Investment Research Consultants (PIRC) which analysed the data collected from FTSE companies on their pay ratios.

The PIRC investigation placed the BGEO banking group top of the table with a ratio of 731 to one. According to the latest figures Sports Direct has its highest paid chief executive earning 400 times the average pay of its employees. G4S has a pay ratio of 296 to one. Tesco has a pay ratio of 258 to one. Jeremy now has allies in, for some, surprising places. Shareholder groups are now so concerned at the scale of pay differentials that shareholder mutinies are becoming increasingly popular at company AGMs. Shareholders have also become increasingly outraged at the level of pay deals for senior executives in the firms in which they hold shares. There have been particular concerns raised at the payment of substantial pay and share awards to company executives even where it is difficult to reconcile the underperformance of the company with the increase in pay awarded to the executives.

These obscene levels of inequality are the result of a steady erosion of both corporate accountability and trade union rights. Even David Cameron argued for pay ratios to be introduced within the public sector and proposed a pay ratio of no more than 20 to one. Professor Prem Sikka, one of my advisers, has co-ordinated a group of experts looking at the whole area of corporate governance, including processes of accountability to secure fair pay and tax. The group is called the Corporate Reform Collective and comprises a significant array of experienced lawyers, academics and tax experts who have come together to explore the detail of corporate abuse and reform.

The collective’s book Fighting Corporate Abuse was published in 2014. I spoke at its launch to welcome the contribution the collective was making to the debate about corporate reform. Many of the ideas in the book address the lack of accountability in companies and offer practical methods of securing greater control of corporate activities - not only to prevent corporate abuse but also to ensure that companies contribute positively to society, protecting consumers, their workers and the wider environment.

Prem Sikka’s take on inequitable pay ratios is to place greater emphasis on democratising the operation of the company. This involves not just the tokenistic placing of a worker on the company board but the introduction of supervisory structures, endowing workers and consumers with democratic power to determine pay and other rewards.

This whole area is rich and fertile ground for the development of policies by the Labour Party to introduce structural changes to our economic model that have the capacity to contribute to transforming the economy and the lives of working people. Media opponents of the left have put about the canard that we have no policies or lack clear direction. It’s a line of attack aimed at demoralising our support.

When we point to the ten point policy programme that Jeremy put to the Labour Party conference the response is that these are just slogans not policies. When we publish detailed policy reports or papers, or make speeches on the detail of achieving the ten point plan, the media either refuses to publish them or distorts them.

That’s why we have taken to the road again to explain our policies and to engage as widely as possible with party supporters and the general public. I have organised a series of economic conferences around the country. The first two, in Liverpool then Glasgow, have been packed out with people enthusiastically discussing the detail of policies to create an economy in their area which provides the jobs and prosperity distributed fairly. We are also launching a tour of the country to discuss and plan how we decarbonise our economy, identifying the projects needed to achieve that transformation.

Check out the Labour Party’s website for details and come and participate in these exciting initiatives. 

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Tories’ Tax Plans Wreckage

16th March 2017

By Mick Brooks

With the humiliating U-turn on National Insurance Contributions the Tories’ tax plans are in ruins. With luck their undeserved reputation for economic competence will also be shredded.

The Tories have branded Labour over and over again as the ‘tax and spend’ Party. It’s a dishonest trick, and a very old one.

In 1918 Labour proposed a Capital Levy to pay for the First World War. They called it ‘the conscription of riches’. In the War hundreds of thousands had given their lives, but that was of no concern to the establishment compared with the loss of their money. The Tories shrieked that people’s savings were under attack, though actually only the very rich would pay.

In 1987 the Conservative researchers added every single suggestion and every chance remark ever made by any Labour spokesperson and scared the electorate into thinking that would mean 10p extra on income tax.

Labour under shadow Chancellor John Smith tried to learn from this gruelling experience by carefully costing their programme in 1992. The Tories in office instructed their Treasury officials to pore over the figures for four days before the election. They came up with zero – zilch. The Tories still came up with the slogan ‘Labour’s Tax Bombshell.’

The Tories lie about tax. They always have, they always will.

What about their record? The Tories pretend that not only do they look after our tax money carefully, but that by their stewardship they can ‘shrink the boundaries of the state’. Basically they see all government spending as waste.

In 1979, Thatcher’s first budget cut the top rate of income tax from 83% to 60% and the standard rate from 33% to 30%. The Tories have always had tender concerns for the plight of the rich. Under the Tories today the top rate of income tax is just 45% for those on over £150,000 a year.

They think we’re all stupid. They go for cutting direct taxes such as income tax because you can see you have less money in your pocket or purse. They think you don’t notice the effect on the cost of living and your living standards when indirect taxes such as VAT go up. At the same time as cutting income tax Thatcher’s government put up VAT from 8% to 15%. Likewise the Tories hiked VAT again from 17½ % to 20% as part of an ‘emergency budget’ in 2011.

The point about direct taxes such as income tax is that at least in principle they can be targeted more heavily on the rich. Indirect taxes like VAT are regressive because they take a bigger proportion of poor people’s income, as they are more likely to spend all their money than have any left to save.

How about shrinking the state? When Thatcher was elected in 1979-80 taxes including National Insurance took 33.7% of GDP. When she was booted out in 1990-91 it was 34.6%. When the Tories came in with the same ambition in 2010-11 taxes were 35.3% of GDP. In 2016-17 it’ll be 36%. In 1964-65, fifty years ago, it was 36.2%. Some ‘shrinking of the state’!

What the Tories are really after is redistributing the tax burden in favour of their rich patrons. Over the next few years they propose a £70bn tax give-away to big business and the rich, while they prescribe austerity for the rest of us. Corporation tax stood at 28% in 2008. It’ll be 19% in 2017 and just 17% in 2020 – the lowest rate of business tax in the G20 economies.

The threshold for Inheritance Tax is to be raised, all while we are told we can’t afford to finance the NHS properly and social care is in crisis. In fact Inheritance Tax is voluntary – only 8% of estates pay it. Plug those loopholes!

The Institute of Fiscal Studies reckons that average earnings will be no higher for fifteen years, from 2007 to to22. This hasn’t happened before since the Napoleonic Wars. The Tories have failed to lift us out of the pit of austerity. There is now a black hole in their tax plans. They need to be turfed out as soon as possible.

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Better off with Labour: -  McDonnell’s Alternative to the Tory Budget

5th March 2017

By Matt Willgress

Next week at the Spring Budget the Tories will seek to prove both that the Theresa May, Phillip Hammond team has ‘reset’ economic policy from the Cameron-Osborne years and that the economic picture is rosy for Britain-  both couldn’t be further from the truth.

As John McDonnell put it this week, “The reality couldn’t be more different. The truth is that the Tories’ economy is rigged in favour of a privileged few who aren’t paying their fair share.”

We need to be 100% clear that May and Hammond represent yet more of the same Tory austerity, and with their commitment to a tax-haven Britain post May’s “hard Brexit”, it is likely this ideologically-driven austerity will deepen in the years ahead.

And we also need to be clear that austerity is already failing and is not sustainable.

We have a low productivity, low wage economy and even the jobs that are being created are insecure and often poorly paid.

Real hourly wages are 10% lower than before the financial crash.

The result of this is that the tax base needed to secure our public services is less stable than it could be.

And every day we see in the news, how the human record of austerity so far is clear - 86% of tax and benefit savings to the Treasury have come from women and have landed most heavily on disabled people and the poor.

We also face a crisis in our public services, a crisis of this Government’s own making.

When it comes to our public services, as thousands of people march in London to save our NHS, perhaps the biggest lie of all from the proponents of austerity is that most of the cuts are ‘efficiency savings’ and don’t have consequences.

The crisis in social care illustrates how false this is. Cuts to social care, amounting to £4.5bn since 2010, have brought the system to the brink of collapse.

Over one million vulnerable elderly people now lack access to the care they need.

Research released this week in a regular update from NHS Digital showed how tens of thousands of care workers have been axed under the Tories, fuelling the social care crisis.

Local councils have seen their funding go down 40% since the Tories came to power in 2010 and in the five years of David Cameron’s premiership cut 33,000 direct care workers, among a total of 46,600 posts cut in adult social services across England.

Over 7,000 jobs were lost in the 12 months to September last year alone.

At the same time, the mounting social care crisis has been blamed for worsening delays in A&E units and response times to 9999 ambulance calls. As Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth MP has hammered home again more and more doctors are simply unable to discharge fit patients - so called bed blocking - because they cannot be cared for outside hospital.

And despite promises to protect NHS funding, the reality is that we are witnessing the largest financial squeeze in the NHS’s history, meaning that by 2018 NHS spending per head will be falling.

Indeed, the government is driving through £22 billion in cuts by 2020.

Another key Tory myth is that we can’t afford decent public services. Yet the £1bn inheritance tax cut will benefit just 26,000 wealthy families.

The cost of Corporation Tax cuts worth almost £15 billion by 2021 is equivalent to the cost of employing 10,000 teachers, 10,000 police officers and 12,000 nurses, full-time, every year, for a decade.

These are deliberate political choices by this government to privilege tax giveaways to the super-rich and giant corporations, even though they undermine Britain’s tax base even further.

In the longer term we need a fairer, progressive tax system, but in the short term Labour is quite rightly also calling on the Government to use the Spring Budget next week to end the crisis in our NHS and social care by giving the emergency cash injection that is urgently needed.

And to fund our public services and improve living standards for the 99% we need to radically different economic policy – based on investment not cuts and a different vision for the future to a free trade agreement with the US dreamed up in Trump Tower.

With Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader and John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor Labour has articulated a real economic alternative to austerity – the challenge for us all now is to unite behind this programme and help popularise it, so the majority of people understand austerity is an economic choice not a political necessity.

Matt Willgress is the national organiser of the Labour Assembly Against Austerity. On March 14 at 7pm at the Boothroyd Room at Portcullis House, they will host an event on Labour’s Alternative to the Tory Austerity Budget with John McDonnell MP, Diane Abbott MP, Richard Burgon MP and many others. You can register in advance at https://bit.ly/mcdonnellonthebudget

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Labour Party NCC and CAC Elections - What you can do to help

5th March 2017

By Michael Calderbank

The Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) has a crucial role in influencing the running of conference, and therefore requires candidates who will represent the wishes of members.

The LRC has formally endorsed the ‘left-slate’ candidates. Proudly the left are pushing three women for the four posts, two of which are from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The left-slate candidates are as follows: (please click on their names for their statements)

Conference Arrangements Committee:
- Seema Chandwani
- Billy Hayes

Seema Chandwani is a CLP Secretary (Tottenham CLP, Labour Party Membership Number: L1187007); and Billy Hayes is the former General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union (Mitcham and Morden CLP, Labour Party Membership Number A065571). The election for these reps will be by a One Member One Vote ballot this summer.

National Constitutional Committee
- Anna Dyer
- Emine Ibrahim

Anna Dyer is a sitting member of the NCC (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn CLP, Labour Party Membership Number L0081865) and Emine Ibrahim is a CLP rep on the London Region’s Labour Party Board (Hornsey and Wood Green CLP, Labour Party Membership Number L0150489). The election of these reps will be by CLP delegates at the Annual Conference in September.

What you can do to help
1. Download the statements and give them to your CLP Secretary
2. Find out when your CLP is nominating and ensure left-wing members/delegates are aware of who to support
3. Tweet and Facebook the infographic below
4. Speak on behalf of the left slate candidates at your CLP nominations meeting
5. Tweet the @LRCinfo if your CLP has nominated one or all of the left slate
6. Make sure the delegates to conference from your CLP are from the left and that they vote for Emine and Anna
7. When ballots drop of the CAC elections, help promote Billy and Seema so they are elected.

image

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Today’s Labour Party Is More In Tune With The Needs Of Our Communities Than Ever Before

27th February 2017

By Ian Hodson

The recent by-elections in Stoke and Copeland have seen the mainstream media and it’s political allies in Westminster go into orbit with their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the current direction of the Labour Party. It’s true that Labour lost Copeland and it’s always disappointing to lose a seat in any election, but contrast the media coverage of the loss of a seat with a 2,500 majority with the complete lack of hysteria around the Tories losing the safe seat of Richmond last year, defending a majority of 23,000. The media have also been quiet about the Conservatives being pushed into third place in Stoke. As yet, I can’t recall any news reporter asking Theresa May if she’s going to resign.

The Stoke by-election was quickly disregarded by the media and enemies of Corbyn once Labour held the seat, beating UKIP in the process. That’s despite the Stoke constituency voting in favour of Brexit. To even report the merest whiff of a Corbyn triumph goes against the media narrative and subsequently, the agenda.

In reality, there were a number of factors that led to Labour losing the Copeland by-election. Boundary changes in the area had already benefitted the Conservatives and it’s clear that UKIP voters in that constituency, switched back to the Tories and enabled them to win the seat. In addition to that, Labour’s majority in Copeland had been falling significantly since 1997 and the Labour candidate that stood for the election, wasn’t even Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred choice. If that wasn’t enough, wheeling out Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair to attack the party and it’s leader during the week leading up to the elections, whether it was by accident or design, didn’t help matters. Each of those factors in isolation might not look like that big a deal, but collectively, they all contributed massively to the defeat and looking at it rationally, it’s ridiculous to ask Jeremy Corbyn to take sole responsibility for it.

It’s interesting that independent polling shows that the policies being offered by Corbyn’s Labour have huge support among large sections of the public. However, when people realise that they are Corbyn’s policies, the reaction is often surprise because they tend to refer to the media’s narrative in terms of what he stands for. Our Union (the BFAWU) backed Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party in both elections and continues to support his efforts. This is not because we’re a ‘hard-left’ cult that sees Jeremy Corbyn as a messiah who can do no wrong. It’s because we know his intentions towards the people that we represent and that they will have a far better and fairer chance in life with common-sense policies being offered by an honest and decent man, with a proven track record of being in their corner and very often, on the right side of history.

Today’s Labour Party is more in tune with the needs of our communities than ever before, with a shadow cabinet full of young talent who are connected to the aspirations of ordinary people in a way that we haven’t seen for decades. Supporting a living wage of £10 an hour, stopping the privatisation of our NHS, introducing a national investment bank, building affordable homes, renationalising railways, ending zero hours contracts, scrapping the bedroom tax, scrapping the work capability assessment and strengthening workers’ rights are all policies worth getting behind. Jeremy Corbyn’s vision brings young people into the equation for once, and offers them a future, particularly in education, rather than uncertainty, exploitation and subsequently, lost generations. A Corbyn-led Labour Party will challenge the government’s failure to ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share and will address the grotesque gulfs between executive pay and the wages of those at the bottom.

All this can be achieved. The Labour government that so many of Corbyn’s detractors in the party claim to want so much can be realised if personalities are put to one side and everyone unites behind the twice elected leader in order to give him the fair wind that he deserves. An vibrant shadow cabinet, a supportive Parliamentary Labour Party, a huge membership with active branches, along with continued Trade Union support and exciting ideas would be more than enough to crush the Conservatives in a general election.

Our decision to support Corbyn in 2015 was the right one and our continued support for his leadership remains exactly the same in 2017. As one of the Labour Party’s longest affiliated organisations, we’ve seen many changes and stood firm in the face of those who would take away our rights. Today’s Labour Party represents us in a way we haven’t seen for a very long time and make no mistake; we will fight to get it into government, whenever that election is called.

Ian Hodson is the BFAWU National President

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Momentum Conference 25th March

26th February 2017

Momentum Conference 25th March

Inspired by the work of local groups over the last year and the hugely successful The World Transformed fringe festival that took place alongside Labour Party Conference in Liverpool in September, Momentum’s first conference ‘Building to Win’ will take place on Saturday 25th March in Birmingham.

The conference will be open to all Momentum members and feature activist training, political education workshops and discussion, focused on four key themes:

*Transforming Labour - helping people navigate Labour Party structures and discussing how Momentum can continue to support the transformation of Labour into a grassroots, members-led party that offers a real alternative to the status quo.

*Helping Labour win - supporting Labour to mobilise its mass membership and win elections as well as helping equip people with arguments and effective communication techniques to persuade people of our vision.

*Building the movement - discussing how we can further root our movement in communities, developing links with people and other grassroots groups to organise throughout the UK and build support for Labour’s policies.

*Building Momentum - building capacity within Momentum networks and groups through skills sharing and training. Building Momentum will help us achieve our first three objectives.

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Momentum Networking Conference 11th March

26th February 2017

Momentum Networking Conference 11th March

Pete Firmin, Brent Momentum member, reports

With the dissolution of all Momentum structures by diktat of the Steering Committee and its imposition of a constitution that no body of Momentum has discussed or (other than an email vote by the Steering Committee) voted on, those opposed to these anti-democratic manoeuvrings have been faced with a dilemma - how to continue to fight for the transformation of the Labour Party and society in the face of this hi-jacking of the organisation meant to achieve this.
The National Committee delegates, ignoring their ‘dissolution’ met on 28th January to discuss the way forward. In a comradely discussion, even when there was disagreement, the meeting discussed fighting the Tories over issues like the NHS and migration/racism before moving on to discuss the situation with Momentum. While condemning the imposed constitution, the meeting rejected any idea of walking away from Momentum, instead opting to organise through and within branches and regions to make Momentum effective in a way it hasn’t been so far.
As Momentum HQ has refused to call the founding conference previously agreed by all Momentum structures (and is now organising a rally which will not decide anything), the existing National Committee and Conference Arrangements Committee have issued this call:
“On Saturday 11th March, the Momentum National Committee has called for a grassroots networking conference for local groups and activists. This is an exciting opportunity for grassroots members to link up, exchange ideas and plan campaigns. There will be plenaries, interactive workshops, and discussions and debates about the future of Momentum and the labour movement.”

All Momentum local groups are invited to send voting delegates to the conference, and all Momentum members are welcome to attend.

This is not the founding conference that was initially planned for February. Its purpose is to allow Momentum groups - at long last - to co-ordinate with each other on a national level: to learn from each other, discuss and develop campaigning ideas, and debate the way forward for Momentum.

Developments can also be followed on the Momentum Grassroots Networking Conference Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1861820347434354/

Grassroots Momentum Conference
11 March 2017
10.00-17.00
Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4RL
This conference is being called at Conway Hall as an opportunity for local groups to network nationally. Since Momentum was formed, we have never had a chance to get together, and now, more than ever, given all the negative polling for the Labour Party, local groups need to get together and form a collective to decide how we want to transform the party and how the grassroots can ensure election for Jeremy in 2020.

To attend, please sign up here

 

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Why I Still Have Faith in Corbyn

25th February 2017

By Seema Chandwani

When Miliband resigned, I tweeted that I wish Jeremy Corbyn would stand and to my surprise a month later he did. I wanted him to stand because I was sick and tired of managerial politics. I wanted Labour to be the Labour I remembered when I was growing up. The Labour that as an ethnic minority woman fought for and empowered my existence in society, that stood up for equality and championed progressive politics.

Jeremy has been in post for over a year and I am very happy with the changes he has made so far:


Welfare Policy

My sister became very ill 5 years ago, she was 29 and her life changed overnight following an infection she contracted on her optical nerve. She lost her eyesight for 6 months and has suffered debilitating pain for the past 5 years. She had to give up working and is currently on ESA. I watched as ATOS hounded her, made her go through humiliating testing despite top medical Professors from the best hospitals in the UK supplying 15 page reports on how bad her condition was. I was stunned when they assessed her as someone who was not entitled to ESA Support. I fought her case and won, but it was too late – the damage was done. She was a scrounger and alongside her physical health, her mental health was now affected.

Where was Labour when this was happening? Who was fighting for this political injustice? We had Labour shout proudly from the rooftops with an abundance of arrogance that they “will be tougher than the Tories on welfare”.

Under Corbyn: Social security for our vulnerable, poor, ill and needing is fought for with genuine passion. We fight for social equality and for a civil society.


Immigration Policy

As someone from a visibly ethnic background, racism and immigrant bashing has a core impact on my life. The rise of UKIP was a worrying development, it empowered the rise in racism and fascism, it mainstreamed their views and allowed prejudice to be acceptable in our society.

Where was Labour when this was happening? Who was fighting the nasty vile rhetoric towards immigrants? Who was politically defending the vast majority of immigrants who work hard and add value to this country? We had Labour trying to sell us mugs to ‘control immigration’, we had leaflets going through the doors in multi-cultural communities like mine endorsing the sentiment of job theft by immigrants inciting poor vs poor conflict.

Under Corbyn: Labour clearly defends immigrants in this country, as a front-bench the rhetoric on immigrants and immigration is clear, Labour believe they are an asset to this country, they keep our services, NHS and infrastructure going, the boost our economy and productivity.


Economy and Public Services

Many vulnerable people rely on good public services run by councils up and down the country. In my borough, we have many vulnerable people relying on social care, children’s centres, youth centres and services for disabilities.

Every Town Hall needed to make terrible decisions knowing the serious impact those decisions would have on the lives of the very people who we exist to protect.

Where was Labour when these cuts were taking place? What was Labour’s plan?

Under Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, Labour was committed to a policy of “austerity lite”, accepting the need for austerity cuts to public services.

Labour also backed a 1% pay freeze for public sector pay.  In effect, Labour was promising that millions of ordinary nurses, teachers, dinnerladies and council workers would suffer real terms cuts to their wages every year.  Hardly an inspiring message.

Under Corbyn (and John McDonnell), Labour policy is much clearer that the deficit can be brought down sustainably by growing the economy without arbitrary deadlines, and by clamping down on vastly wealthy multinational corporations who pay next to no tax in this country.  Labour is clear that we can and must borrow for long-term infrastructure projects, and secure regional investment right across the country.  We’re now committed to making sure that workers receive a real living wage as determined by the Living Wage Commission, and ending the blight of zero hours contracts.  Where once Labour was offering merely to soften the intensity of Tory cuts, now Labour plans to make a real difference to the lives of working people.


We are finally on the road of having a real Labour plan based on solid progressive socialist values that is distinct from the policies we see from the Tories. We still have some way to go, but we’re not regressing

Our job now is to communicate our plans to the wider electorate, a tough task given what we used to promote and tougher as some Labour MPs are still promoting regressive policy ideas that no longer fit in our movement.

But the strength of our policy ideas and the positive impact they could have on the lives of millions is worth the hard work we will have to put in.

 

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Copeland: New Labour Caused A Crisis

24th February 2017

By Ben Sellers

Just a few weeks ago there was a real expectation that Labour would lose both Stoke and Copeland. It’s taken a lot of hard work by those on the ground, but in one of those by-elections, we’ve walked away with a decisive victory. People will say that Nuttall was a gift, and in many ways he was - but that open goal may not have been scored by a smaller, less grassroots oriented Labour Party (both online and offline). It seems that we are capable of seeing off UKIP, if we work collectively.

Copeland is an altogether different constituency with very specific issues. Nuclear jobs are a factor, but so is a political culture which has become insular, not recently but over many years. So discussions about alternatives have been discouraged to the point that they are taboo. That culture has been fostered by the New Labour hierarchy and the previous MP, Jamie Reed. Perhaps more understandably, it’s been promoted by the major trade unions, who see their sole role as protecting jobs. To shift any of that debate in a few weeks was going to be an almost impossible task, but again, Labour members on the ground did at least manage to get people talking about the NHS, transport and the Tories’ decimation of our public services. I doubt if many cast their votes for the Tory Party with much enthusiasm.

So now, our opponents will focus on Copeland and try to nail Jeremy Corbyn for it. The media aren’t interested in context. Not when they scent blood. The right of the party aren’t interested in understanding the longer term causes of our decline, because for them, this has become a tabloid-like game to bury Jeremy Corbyn, and with him the project of the left in the party.

So we’ll have to remind them where this started. Not with Corbyn, but with a New Labour project that was uninterested in working class communities outside of a south east corner: look at Scotland, look at decreasing majorities across the north; look at the South West even. The fragility of Labour’s base began years ago, when a party lost touch with its own grassroots and the trade unions. New Labour caused a crisis, which we were never going to recover from quickly, because we’ve had a decade of abandoning our people, our heartlands and people don’t forget easily.

On top of that, there has been a targeted and systematic campaign by those Blairite MPs who still hold huge sway in Parliament, and whose only purpose has been to create chaos for the leadership. That has undoubtedly dented our support, because people see a divided party and a leadership unable to control and pacify the PLP. Not everyone understands the machinations or the underlying causes of the chaos, so often they will blame Corbyn. But the reality is, a large chunk of the blame lies with those who still won’t accept that the party has changed.

None of this is to say that we can’t improve, as a project: in terms of communication, organisation and leadership we’re on a massive learning curve. It’s frustrating that we’re not learning quick enough, because that is leaving us vulnerable. We need to be bolder, less frightened and more open to the enormous grassroots that brought us here. That’s difficult when everyone around you is telling you that it’s failing, declining, in crisis. But they - the majority of the media, the right of the party and the political establishment - were always going to say that.

Copeland: a word from Richard Burgon MP

“Losing Copeland very disappointing and we need to win it back. But whilst this morning it is being portrayed as losing ‘a safe Labour seat’, up until just days ago it was usually described as being a ‘marginal’ seat. Indeed, The Guardian, The Mirror, The Spectator, The Daily Mail, The Express, Sky News election analyst Professor Michael Thrasher and even Conservative Home have all described Copeland as a ‘marginal’ seat. When I read some London-based commentators describing Copeland as ‘a Labour heartland’or a ‘safe Labour seat’, I’m left wondering ‘have you ever been to the North of England or do you just presume everywhere is all the same up here?’ Even if they have never ventured up here, surely they could at least look at the history of usually small Labour majorities in the constituency of Copeland since its creation in 1983.”

The effect of boundary changes

Copeland constituency emerged in 1983 out of the old Whitehaven seat. Whitehaven had been Labour since 1935. Progressively more bits of the Lake District were included into Copeland. In 2010 Crummock, Dalton, Derwent Valley and Keswick in the Allerdale District were added. Keswick is a lovely place, but it cannot be described as a ‘Labour heartland’. Together with long years of neglect by New Labour, the constituency has steadily become more and more marginal.

        Labour Vote (%)    Tory Vote (%)
1997       58.2                 29.2
2001       51.8                 37.5
2005       50.5                 31.7
2010       46.0                 37.1
2015       42.3                 35.8 (plus 15.5% for UKIP)

The UKIP vote collapsed into the Tories in 2017.

The result is bad for Labour. It is not a catastrophe, and certainly not a reason to dump Jeremy Corbyn as leader.And it was nice to stuff UKIP in Stoke!

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Trade unions: facing up to the challenges

23rd February 2017

Trade unions: facing up to the challenges

By Matt Wrack,
General Secretary of the FBU and Chair of the LRC

Anyone seriously examining the state of the trade union movement in Britain today rapidly comes face-to-face with some stark and worrying facts. In absolute terms the trade union movement is less than half the size it was when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, falling from more than 13 million in 1979 to 6.5 million in 2015. In terms of density (the proportion of the workforce organised in unions), the decline is just as severe with around one quarter of the workforce organised in unions compared with more than 50% in 1979. Less than 30% of employees in the UK are now covered by collective bargaining arrangements, with the figure for the private sector only 16.1%. This reflects the much greater levels of trade union membership and collective bargaining arrangements in the public sector.

These long-term trends are also reflected in other ways. The past decade has seen the final demise of the ‘industrial correspondent’ - that specialist journalist within a news organisation who was an expert on trade union matters, industrial relations… and strikes. The news organisations are apparently so dismissive of trade unions that they no longer feel it necessary to have such specialists.

These matters should be the object of serious research, discussion and debate within the labour movement. It is self-evident that they are a key part of the picture of working life today. If work for many is seen as more precarious, if there are growing concerns about exploitation and about levels of inequality, then surely trade unions should be at the centre of any public debate. But we first need to face up to our own problems.

The TUC led a campaign against the Trade Union Bill introduced by the Tories after the 2015 election. There has been much self-congratulation over the effectiveness of the TUC campaign. But this misses the point that the Trade Union Bill is now an Act – it is law, and it is the most serious attack on the ability of workers to organise in a generation. It attacks our organisations, financially and politically, and it seriously weakens the ability of unions to organise industrial action.

The starting point of developing any strategy of resistance must be to face reality, no matter how difficult that might be. My concern is that too many are unwilling to do so. The result is an emerging strategy that focuses not on organising workers so that they can fight back but rather on lobbying the Tories in the hope that they will not be too ruthless with us. It is not an approach which convinces me in the slightest.

The start of rebuilding has to be in the workplaces. In the past, it was in the workplaces that our strength was built. It was largely a rank and file movement which saw off an earlier attack on trade union rights when the Heath government was defeated in 1971 and 1972 over the Industrial Relations Act. Our movement was able to undertake such a struggle because then there were tens of thousands of workplace representatives - shop stewards - able to build a movement largely from the bottom up. Against the 2015 attack there was no such movement.

Clearly there have been huge industrial and political changes since 1971 and since 1979. We need to discuss and address those. We may need to learn again the lessons which earlier generations learned about organising in the workplace in difficult circumstances and against the opposition of the bosses. But there are people already leading the way in organising the unorganised. If we want to reverse the decline of the past 30 years it will need to be done from the bottom up. General Secretaries may not always be too comfortable with the sort of rebellion which will be necessary – but it will be necessary nonetheless.

This article appears in the March 2017 issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC

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Ealing Council Stitch-Up

20th February 2017

Ealing Council Stitch-Up:
the Shape of Things to Come?

By Mick Brooks

The way council candidates in Ealing have been selected may be a harbinger of how right wing Labour intends to treat the process nationally.
The Labour Parties in Ealing have been traditionally dominated by the right wing. Council leader Julian Bell, a Progress supporter, actively campaigned for Liz Kendall in the 2015 leadership election.

A left wing challenge has emerged recently around the FaceBook page Ealing Labour for Corbyn. EL4C members can easily be identified by their attendance at the 400+ John McDonnell meeting in Ealing Town Hall in support of Jeremy’s 2016 successful leadership bid. There have been other more recent events such as a showing of the film ‘Pride’ and a meeting addressed by Alex Nunns, author of ‘The Candidate’, the book about Jeremy’s leadership campaign.

The selection process for 2018 candidate councillors began early in Ealing. Stage one is an interview panel intended to weed out obviously unsuitable candidates. Normally this is uncontroversial. This time it turned into a purge. Eighteen out of nineteen Corbynistas were rejected outright.

Candidates were presented with a campaigning report immediately on arrival for interview. This was a new departure, sprung on new candidates without warning.  Many of these new candidates are also new to the Party. There has been a massive influx of members since Jeremy became leader. These new and enthusiastic members and candidates have been accused of not canvassing for Labour before they became members. This is ridiculous. Who has ever heard of non- members being asked to canvass for our Party?

Among the identified Corbynistas one sitting councillor was among those rejected by the interview panel. She is now ineligible to stand for the ward she has represented for the past four years. The sitting councillor’s record of canvassing was deemed inadequate – because she had broken a leg! (She broke it while canvassing.)

She was asked why she couldn’t canvass by phone. This would have involved walking up a narrow and inaccessible staircase. In effect she was being discriminated against because of a disability, which is against the law. The Labour movement has been foremost in fighting against disability discrimination, yet right wing Labour blatantly used it to bar Corbyn supporters from becoming council candidates.

The normal procedure is that the local branch and CLP should supply the report of campaigning activity to the interviewing team. This was not asked for or given. At a joint ward meeting in Ealing in January it was clearly established that local officers had not been asked about local members’ campaigning activities. No systematic records of individual comrades involved in campaigning had been kept in any case.

Not to put too fine a point upon it, these ‘reports’ were inventions, fabrications concocted to eliminate Corbyn supporters from the process. At the meeting it was agreed to write a letter to the organisers about this. They have so far contemptuously failed to answer or even acknowledge the letter.

One candidate had previously been a member of the Socialist Party. She was presented with evidence of articles she had written more than fifteen years ago. The dates on the articles were falsified to make them seem more recent. Shouldn’t we welcome new and enthusiastic members to the Party? Instead anonymous spies, apparently with nothing better to do, conducted this time- consuming ‘research’.

Having been rejected by the interview panel, candidates can appeal to an appeals panel. London Region Labour is dominated by the right wing. Eleven lefts were available to serve on the appeals panel. Not one was selected.

It was clear to the unfortunates who went for appeal that the panel members knew who they were and what they were going to do to them. After lengthy and unpleasant interrogation potential councillors have been told that their appeal was rejected. The reasons are ‘confidential’. Imagine being found guilty of murder and told by the judge that the evidence and legal argument to imprison you are confidential! Often the harangues from the panel have been accompanied by petty and unpleasant gestures. In one case, over a long evening the panel members made themselves a cup of tea, but refused to offer any to their victims.

In Ealing Labour we are faced with a regime of whole-scale lies and chicanery intended to victimise and marginalise supporters of the elected leader of our Party. Party officials conduct themselves like members of the Stasi, whose see their task is to police and spy upon local Party members. It must be said that the vast majority of Party members, whether right or left wing, are deeply shocked when they hear of these shenanigans. Opposition is building up.

The overwhelming support among rank and file members for Corbyn and his policies is meeting obstruction from an entrenched bureaucracy. Hopefully their resistance shows they feel themselves to be under serious challenge for the first time in years.

Our Party is in urgent need of democratisation. The example of Ealing Labour should be a wake-up call for Party members all over the country. The 2017 Labour Conference must be the focus for a thoroughgoing democratic renewal.

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CETA Beware

17th February 2017

CETA Beware

On February 15th the European Parliament voted to ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). CETA is not as well known as TTIP (the The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), which we thought we were glad to see the back of; but CETA poses equivalent dangers.

Though presented as an EU-Canada trade deal, it would allow any US multinational with an office in Canada to complain about ‘unfair trade practices’. Tariffs between the EU and Canada (and the USA) are already low, so big business will target and try to tear up regulations defending:

• workers’ rights,
• environmental protection
• defence of consumer interests
• support for public services
- in short start a race to the bottom on standards.

The very idea that big business has ‘rights’ to exploit, pollute, poison and butcher public services which override those protections we have fought for and won is grotesque and offensive.

British trade union leaders sent this warning to Labour MEPs.

Dear Labour MEPs,
We write to ask you to oppose the ratification of Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the EU-Canada trade deal due to be voted on in the European Parliament on February 15.
We understand there are many concerns about CETA influenced by Brexit and the rise to power of Donald Trump in the USA. Nevertheless, we must judge CETA on its merits and the dangers it contains: CETA gives vast new powers to corporations, including to any US business interests currently operating in Canada and the EU – which includes Donald Trump’s hotel business.

CETA, like any trade deal, is meant to encourage growth. But even the proponents of CETA have admitted that CETA may only generate a GDP increase of 0.03 to 0.08 per cent across the EU after 10 years. Indeed, the only country-by-country impact assessment of CETA shows it will cost 200,000 jobs and endanger trade between European countries. As the EMPL of the European Parliament finds, “evidence shows that the agreement would contribute to widening the incomes gap between unskilled and skilled workers thus increasing inequalities and social tensions.”

The ETUC and the Canadian Labour Congress have expressed concerns that, despite the Joint Interpretive Instrument, CETA still fails to address trade union concerns about the enforceability of labour rights. As such, trade unions across Europe and Canada join civil society groups in calling for a no vote to CETA in the European Parliament.

Perhaps the greatest concern over CETA is its investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. While the European Commission has re-branded investor protection as the “Investor Court System” (ICS) and introduced improvements including an appeal mechanism, the introduction of judges and greater transparency, ICS remains a a one-way legal mechanism to sue governments, bounded by the same substantive powers for businesses.

Under ICS, big business can still sue for changes made to the regulatory environment that breach a company’s “legitimate expectations”, resulting in taxpayers’ effectively providing risk insurance for North American big business. Any government’s “right to regulate” will be determined by a “necessity test”, while investment is still defined in such a way (“the expectation of gain or profit”) that companies will be able to sue for future lost profits.

The treatment of public services in CETA also sets a deeply disturbing precedent: CETA introduces negative listing (“list it or lose it”) of public services to trade deals, pairing this with standstill and ratchet clauses which effectively make privatisation irreversible – without facing a legal claim under the deal’s ISDS mechanism. This commitment is intrinsically undemocratic and against the interests of those who fight to defend public services and jobs in such industries.

The UK’s interests have been poorly defended in the negotiations of CETA, and, as you know, international trade secretary Liam Fox bypassed the UK parliament to sign the UK on to the deal at EU Council level.  Appendix 20-A of CETA lists 173 products known as Geographical Indicators, from Feta cheese through to Edam and Modena balsamic vinegar. The UK is unique among EU Member States in not protecting any of its products, whether Cornish Pasties or Cheddar cheese.

We are hearing much about possible trade deals in the future once we have left the EU, both in Canada and the UK CETA has been identified as a template for future UK deals with Canada and the EU respectively. We therefore must ensure a progressive precedent for future trade deals which prioritises human rights, jobs and environmental rules. CETA fails on each of these counts. We trust you will do whatever you can to defeat CETA on the floor of the European Parliament.

In solidarity
Mary Bousted, General Secretary, ATL
Gail Cartmail, acting General Secretary, Unite
Mick Cash, General Secretary, RMT
Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA
Kevin Courtney, General Secretary, NUT
Ronnie Draper, General Secretary, BFAWU
Sally Hunt, General Secretary, UCU
Tim Roache, General Secretary, GMB
Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, PCS
Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON
Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU
Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF.

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It’s the duty of Labour members to protect the Labour values of social housing

16th February 2017

By Seema Chandwani

When I was housed by the council after leaving care, it was the first time I believed I had a chance of a normal life. Having a stable home gave me the opportunity to go to university, get a job and climb the ladder of social mobility. It angers me that in 2017 we have 8,000 people in Haringey waiting on the housing list to have the opportunity I had.

A few weeks ago, my CLP, overwhelmingly voted against Haringey Labour council’s regeneration project called the ‘Haringey Development Vehicle’ (HDV), billed by locals as the “£2bn gamble”, which aims to build 5,000 new homes. But why would I be so against this amazing project?

The HDV is a complex, large scale project involving £2bn (in first phase) of council homes, property and land including our civic buildings, libraries, health centres and schools. The council plans to set up a private company, of which 50% is owned by a private property developer and 50% is owned by the council. The £2bn of property is transferred into this private company alongside their revenue and income – taking millions out of the council budget.

Labour backbench councillors on the Scrutiny Committee highlighted severe concerns about the risks to this project. The function of Scrutiny is vital to good public administration and our support as members to Labour Councillors performing this independent and often difficult role should always be a priority and their work should always be taken seriously. A large proportion of the motion Labour members voted on, was based on the findings in the council Scrutiny report which was voted on by both the Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee and the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, these committees have 10 Labour councillors sitting on them.

The housing element comes under the banner of ‘estate renewal’, its ethos is to demolish and then rebuild. What is rebuilt however, will not be council homes In Haringey over 2,000 council homes will be demolished and replaced with non-council homes. Some will be for private sale, some for private rent and some at ‘affordable’ rents. The aim for the council is to create ‘mixed communities’.

There will be assurances that social rent level homes will be replaced. However as we have seen on the Haygate estate, 1,034 socially rented homes were demolished, with the promise of 500 socially rent level replacements - yet only 82 were provided. Southwark’s ‘partner’ Lendlease is the same private developer that Haringey will be agreeing as their preferred partner.

I voted against this project because it defies the logic and evidence of similar projects which have failed. This project does not tackle the crisis we are facing which is destroying so many lives in London. We have a shortage of council homes at social rents. To demolish over 2,000 will create a bigger shortage. Those people in these council homes will be ‘decanted’, given points and made to join the current waiting list, making it more difficult for those already waiting to be housed.

There is not one person in the Labour Party who does not want to tackle homelessness and the housing crisis, but such deals with multi-national property developers prey on our desperation with promises which will never be met. In fact it will make the situation a lot worse.

London mayor Sadiq Khan is currently consulting on a good practice guide to estate regeneration, Sadiq knows the importance of social housing, his guidelines are very clear about tenants right to return and demolition being the last resort. Many Labour members would support the HDV if these guidelines were guaranteed – but according to the council’s estate rehousing policies, they are not.
It is vitally important that we respond to that consultation and ensure we protect social housing for future generations.

The HDV is far more than a threat to social housing - it’s a threat to the loss of billions of pounds of public capital assets. We have seen similar joint venture initiatives across the UK cost councils millions to set up and even more when it fails. Labour councils need to be better equipped and sharper to defend themselves against becoming prey to the private property sector.

Since the CLP motion was passed, the council have announced and agreed Lendlease as the selected ‘partner’ in this joint venture and this raises further concerns for me as a trade unionist. A simple Google search will show that Lendlease have a track record that should concern all those in the Labour movement.

One of my major concerns is Lendlease are one of the construction companies who appear on the UCATT list of Blacklisters. Blacklisting destroyed the lives of unionised construction workers and it is right that Labour have been strong in challenging this issue for years, however actions speak louder than words and in the same week Chuka Umunna MP is calling for a public inquiry into Blacklisting, we have a Labour council willing to going into partnership with one of the companies we want investigating in the biggest local authority property deal in history. Such an action undermines the legitimacy of Labour’s work on this vitally important cause that will have national consequences.

This and similar projects illustrate a wider problem of clear progressive policy development and local authority implementation which appears to have the autonomy to override the Labour values we should be adhering to. As we continue to explore devolution we must ensure it does not mean those who have power to implement practice and delivery can do so with the absence of any accountability to Labour’s values.

Our loyalty to Labour beliefs should always supersede our loyalty individual Labour politicians, they are elected with the purpose of putting Labour values into practice.  It was not an easy decision to challenge our local Labour leadership, but as members and a CLP we have a responsibility to request the Scrutiny process is taken seriously to ensure our actions in power are robust and that we demand Labour values are at the forefront of what we do when we hold public office and tackle practices that are a threat to the progressive principles that underpin our movement.

To respond to Sadiq Khan’s consultation go to https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/housing-and-land/improving-quality/good-practice-guide-estate-regeneration

Read David Lammy MP’s statement of concerns on the HDV here
Read Catherine West MP’s statement of concerns on the HDV here

Others who have publicly expressed concerns about Haringey Council’s HDV include: Unite The Union London Region, GMB London Region, Haringey NUT, Haringey Unison, Haringey TUC, Defend Council Housing, Taxpayers Against Poverty, The Highgate Society.

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The Mobilisation Of Our Committed Members Will See Us Through To Success

16th February 2017

By John McDonnell MP

Anybody who thought electing a socialist leader of the Labour Party would be an easy ride now knows that was never going to be the case. Winning the internal party election for the leadership was the relatively easy part. The coup was also totally predictable and could be planned for. Therefore the second leadership election was arduous, but with determination and hard work was eminently winnable.

We have now reached the toughest period so far. The euphoria of winning a greater mandate in the second leadership election, despite every trick in the bureaucratic textbook used against us, has given way to a serious appreciation of the challenge we now face

The character of our politics is to be straightforward and honest with people. So let’s be straight about this. This is the toughest of times we have experienced so far and it is not only also absolutely predictable and understandable but also something we can completely deal with. It does mean though that we need to understand fully what we are up against and what we have to deal with.

We are currently facing exactly what we predicted but many didn’t fully appreciate. The full forces of the establishment are being thrown against us. In no way will the elite establishment tolerate the popular election of a socialist leader without a bitter fight.

One of the key fundamental problems we face is not a lack of political analysis, policies, direction, courage, determination or leadership. It is the critical question of how we can communicate a narrative about our objectives and policies in a way that can cut through the bilious, cynical distortion of every aspect of the traditional media. Any criticism of media bias by the left is always distorted as whining. The various independent reports have proved conclusively that we are witnessing a level of media bias that certainly most have never seen on this scale before. The evidence demonstrates that it ranges from the Sun and the Mail to the Guardian and the BBC. This daily grinding out of distortion and attack can undoubtedly have its effect on our standing in the polls and in turn on the morale of some of our supporters who are not always close to the action and may not be experienced in past trade union or political campaigns. So we need to explain both what we are up against and how we can overcome this.

This is the time for determination in the face of whatever they throw against us. The best form of defence is attack. Politically that means using the one resource that we have which the other side doesn’t. It’s true that we are the many, they are the few. Mobilising our large base of support in the Labour Party, the trade unions, progressive campaigns and the wider community is the way to win. How we do that is the key to our success.

First, it means ensuring that our supporters and potential supporters have the opportunity to engage in the exploration, discussion, debate and determination of political analysis and policymaking. That’s why we are going on the stomp around the country with a series of regional and national economic conferences to develop our economic thinking and planning from the grassroots up, Similar exercises are planned in several other policy areas, including how we can decarbonise our economy based upon local initiatives facilitated by creative national policymaking. New creative initiatives to enable large-scale involvement in digital democracy will facilitate and energise the discussion of politics and policy in and beyond our Party.

Second, it means mobilising around consistent campaigning, setting up or using existing structures to co-ordinate our campaigning at local and national levels. People are becoming increasingly angry at the Tories’ attacks on our public services and more workers are willing to take action to protect their jobs and their living standards. We need to lead in mobilising support and solidarity with these campaigns. It will require the increasingly effective use of social media to communicate ideas and to assist mobilisation.

Third, it also means gearing up and training our members to give them the confidence and motivation to access the Party’s structures and engage in the vital routine work that is needed to ensure the political direction of the Party and deliver the votes that we need in elections over the coming years.

The message therefore is that the times may be tough and may get tougher - but it is the mobilisation of our committed, inspired and enthusiastic members that will see us through to success

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NHS - All Out On 4th March

16th February 2017

By Dr John Lister

Doctors and Nurses have been saying the conditions in today’s NHS are the worst they have seen, or the worst ever. But for those of us with memories going back 30 years the whole situation in the NHS seems like a blast from the past.

In 1987 we also had a stubborn, right wing woman in Downing Street, orchestrating real terms cuts in health and other public services, starving hospitals of funding through below inflation allocations. A baying right wing press, then as now, sought to exploit every failing by an NHS hospital, to argue that the NHS itself was outdated, unsustainable, and in need of fundamental, privatising, change. But there are important differences: back then the bench-mark for waiting times was years, rather than weeks, with delays of two years or more common, and prolonged trolley waits for emergencies were standard.

Theresa May is clearly no Margaret Thatcher, and her majority is weak, with the Tories hugely divided over Brexit. However May is not confronted by a labour movement as strong, combative and united as the unions and Labour were in 1987, even after the defeat of the miners’ strike.

It has not so far been possible to build as powerful a campaigning movement to challenge the Tory cuts at local and national level. Today’s Labour Party opposition, while improving, still lacks a clear, consistent edge, while many Labour councils and MPs lag way behind and offer no lead or support in defence of threatened services.

Nor has the medical profession yet been mobilised to challenge May’s cuts, in the way it was at the end of 1987. Then campaigners were able to gather a national petition of 1,200 hospital consultants and leading specialists, attacking the cuts and demanding an increase in funding: the leaders of three medical Royal Colleges led a delegation to present the petition to 10 Downing Street. Thatcher grudgingly responded by conceding an extra one-off £100 million cash injection,  inflation that year). This was dismissed by Mr George Pinker, President of the Royal College of Gynaecologists (the Queen’s own doctor), as inadequate.

The unions were also more confident then. Unofficial strike action in January 1988 by night shift nurses in Manchester triggered a wave of official and unofficial strikes across the country, which eventually brought the ‘regrading’ of nursing pay, with major increases for many nursing staff.

We can’t do the same today, but it’s clear we need to step up the fight on all fronts in defence of our NHS. Real terms NHS pay has lagged behind much lower levels of inflation, leaving all staff more than 16% worse off in real terms than six years ago.

NHS funding has been effectively frozen in real terms since 2010, lagging way behind the growth in population and the estimated 4% per year increases in cost pressures from an ageing population, new drugs and treatments and higher than RPI inflation. And there is no light at the end of the tunnel: budgets will be even tighter in 2018 and 2019 than this year – forcing health bosses in every area to seek huge and unprecedented cost savings.

That’s why NHS England has redivided the country into 44 ‘footprints’ – each required to draw up “Sustainability and Transformation Plans” (STPs) to force spending back into balance through cuts, closures, job losses, other ‘savings’, and hopes of reducing demand for health care.

The pressure for cuts runs alongside the chaotic mechanisms of the 2012 Health & Social Care Act, which requires local commissioners (CCGs) to put services out to competitive tender – allowing profitseeking companies like Virgin to pick up more and mo

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The membership of Unite should support Len McCluskey

16th February 2017

By John Wiseman

The Leadership of Unite, the UK’s biggest trade union, is a vital issue for the trade union and labour movement. The membership of Unite should support Len McCluskey in his campaign for re-election as General Secretary.

He has shown determination, leadership and vision in creating a powerful union - one which cares about its members and fights back on their behalf. As an activist, I have always been supported through the union structures under his leadership.

He has built Unite’s organising and industrial capacity through a strong structure of lay reps and shop stewards. He has also built a union fully committed to supporting Unite members in dispute. Unite has not repudiated any industrial action taken by its members under his leadership. He has set out a vision for the future of Unite by developing an industrial strategy for the union and creating one voice in the construction sector through a merger with UCATT.

Len has supported his members in every sector of Unite, from low paid workers at Sports Direct, to campaigning to save the UK Steel industry, to secure investment and decent jobs in the car industry and manufacturing. He has continued to defend workers in our public services.

He has been instrumental in Unite creating a strategy to handle Brexit to defend Unite members’ jobs and has proposed workable policies to deal with free movement. In addition he has developed Unite’s international links with unions in Europe and North America to fight back against powerful global corporations and he has campaigned against bad trade deals such as TTIP and CETA.

Len McCluskey has been a firm supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, following the decision of Unite’s executive and their conference to back Jeremy, especially when the Labour leader was under attack from MPs and the media. Importantly, he has been open and honest about Unite’s relationship with the Labour Party and its leadership.

This election is about the future of the trade union and labour movement. Len McCluskey has earned the respect of the movement and therefore as Unite members, we must fully endorse him.

The National Executive Committee of the Labour Representation Committee has voted overwhelmingly to endorse Len McCluskey

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Reject the ‘Haringey Development Vehicle’

14th February 2017

Reject the ‘Haringey Development Vehicle’

Letter to ‘Guardian’ 13.02.16

We write in solidarity with up to 15,000 households and 508 businesses who live and work on council land in the London borough of Haringey. The cabinet of the council meets on 14 February to decide whether to enter into a 50/50 partnership with a private developer, handing over £2bn of council assets – involving unprecedented political and financial risks. This monstrous “Haringey development vehicle” will demolish and uproot many council homes and workplaces.
Currently, 100% of council homes are affordable. Council leaders are promising that at least 40% of the rebuilt and extra homes will be affordable, leaving the obvious conclusion that most will not be. Therefore communities will be destroyed and the council will be struggling to house families and individuals in and outside the borough in a housing market short of homes.

The private developer will apply continual pressure to increase the number of homes that can be sold at market prices to increase profitability. The council wants to “smarten up” the council estates next to the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium. Yet again the rich and powerful are conspiring to enclose public land and yet again it would be to the detriment of most of those who now live and work there.

Dave Morris Haringey Federation of Residents Associations
Martin Ball Our Tottenham
Gordon Peters Haringey Green Party
Doug Thorpe Haringey Left Unity
Carol Wilcox Secretary, Labour Land Campaign
Elaine Graham-Leigh Chair, North London People’s Assembly Against Austerity
Bob Ellard Disabled People Against Cuts,
Islington Haringey GMB Trade Union
Paul Burnham Secretary, Haringey Defend Council Housing
Paul Kershaw Chair, Unite LE1111 Housing workers
Chris Roche RIBA 11.04 Architects
Rev. Paul Nicholson, Taxpayers Against poverty
and more than 1,000 others

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Spycop Cover Up

13th February 2017

Spycop Cover Up

Unions demand action from spycops inquiry following Met Police shredding of evidence

Trade unions targeted by undercover police and that have been granted core participant status in the Pitchford public inquiry have issued a joint statement in response to IPCC confirmation that the Met Police had destroyed a substantial amount of evidence intended for use in the public inquiry.

Joint Union Statement
We the undersigned are outraged at the news that despite court orders to the contrary, the Metropolitan Police Service has destroyed evidence required for use in the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry. State spying on trade unions and political campaigns is a human rights scandal that affects millions of British citizens.
Despite continued reassurances, the Pitchford Inquiry has failed to secure the documents that will be central to the investigation. Trade union core participants are beginning to question whether the Inquiry team has the ability to stop the police from obstructing the pursuit of justice. Lord Justice Pitchford needs to act now to restore our faith.
We are calling on Lord Justice Pitchford to announce an urgent Inquiry hearing to examine the destruction of evidence by the police. The Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe should be forced to give evidence under oath to explain why, how and under whose authority documents have been destroyed.
Lord Justice Pitchford needs to take immediate measures to secure all documentation held by the police, in order to prevent future destruction and avoid the entire inquiry descending into a hugely expensive cover-up on the part of the Metropolitan Police.
SIGNED:
Len McCluskey (General Secretary) and Gail Cartmail (Acting General Secretary) UNITE the Union, incorporating UCATT
Matt Wrack (General Secretary) Fire Brigades Union
Chris Kitchen (General Secretary) National Union of Mineworkers
Mick Cash (General Secretary) Rail Maritime and Transport union
Michelle Stanistreet (General Secretary) National Union of Journalists
Dave Smith and Roy Bentham (joint secretaries) Blacklist Support Group

Dave Smith, blacklisted construction worker and himself a core participant in the undercover policing inquiry commented:
“The Pitchford inquiry has been running for nearly two years and so far not a single document has been disclosed to our lawyers and not a single witness has given evidence. The delay is entirely due to police attempts to try and keep their dirty secrets away from public scrutiny. The police are no longer just obstructing justice, by shredding evidence they are in contempt of court. We demand to know who gave the order and whether criminal charges will be brought against them. The more this scandal unfurls, the more it appears that the Met Police think they can act however want because they are above the law. This has got to stop”
 

UCATT, FBU, NUM and BSG have all been granted core participant status in the Pitchford inquiry. There is irrefutable evidence in the public domain that UNITE, NUJ and RMT unions’ activists have been kept under surveillance by undercover police officers.

 

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Tory Brexit

9th February 2017

Tory Brexit

Here is a summary of the amendments Labour submitted to the Bill to implement Article 50.The summaries are taken from LabourPress.
All these amendments were defeated.

The House of Commons with a Tory majority has voted against:
• Protecting workers’ rights
• Securing free access to the Single Market
• Ensuring democratic scrutiny of the Brexit process by the House of Commons
• Giving the House of Commons a final say on the deal. The House of Commons has to vote in favour of the Tory deal or no deal
• Guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals living in the UK
• Consulting with the devolved administrations in the UK
• Publishing impact assessments of new trading relationships with the EU
• Retaining existing tax avoidance and tax evasion measures.

A Tory Brexit could mean:

• Trashing workers’ rights
• Turning the UK into a bargain basement tax haven
• Using EU nationals in the UK as hostages during negotiations
• Being kept in the dark during negotiations
• Not having the faintest idea what the final terms are likely to be and no say when the deal is cut.

This could be the meaning of a Tory Brexit. This is the beginning of a long fight to make sure Brexit is not used to turn Britain into a low tax, low wage economy, home to oligarchs and fly-by-night big business barons, where workers’ rights and living standards come last.


From LabourPress
Labour’s amendments would:
i)              Allow a meaningful vote in Parliament on the final Brexit deal. Labour’s amendment would ensure that the House of Commons has the first say on any proposed deal and that the consent of Parliament would be required before the deal is referred to the European Council and Parliament.
ii)            Establish a number of key principles the Government must seek to negotiate during the process, including protecting workers’ rights, securing full tariff and impediment free access to the Single Market.
iii)          Ensure there is robust and regular Parliamentary scrutiny by requiring the Secretary of State to report to the House at least every two months on the progress being made on negotiations throughout the Brexit process
iv)          Guarantee legal rights for EU nationals living in the UK. Labour has repeatedly called for the Government to take this step, and this amendment would ensure EU citizens’ rights are not part of the Brexit negotiations.
v)            Require the Government to consult regularly with the governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland throughout Brexit negotiations. Labour’s amendment would put the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) on a statutory footing and require the UK Government to consult the JMC at least every two months.
vi)          Require the Government to publish impact assessments conducted since the referendum of any new proposed trading relationship with the EU. This amendment seeks to ensure there is much greater clarity on the likely impact of the Government’s decision to exit the Single Market and seek new relationship with the Customs Union
vii)          Ensure the Government must seek to retain all existing EU tax avoidance and evasion measures post-Brexit

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Greece: Crunch Time

8th February 2017

Greece: Crunch Time

By Mick Brooks

Tennessee Ernie Ford: Sixteen Tons
“You load sixteen tons, and what do you get /
Another day older and deeper in debt /
Saint Peter don’t you call me ‘cause I can’t go /
I owe my soul to the company store.”

Greece is once again on the edge of a precipice. Talks to seal a deal to roll over their massive debt have stalled. If there is no settlement by the time the EU Finance Ministers meet on February 20th, then, with no deal on the table, there is the prospect of a default on their debts for the third time since 2010.

It is a measure of the coming crisis that Greek government two-year bond yields have spike from 6% to 10% over the past two weeks. Bond yields are based on two things – risk and return. The jump in yields shows that speculators think there’s a real risk they won’t get their money back. By contrast yields on German bonds are low because they are regarded as ‘safe’. Nobody thinks Germany will default on its debts any time soon.

Ministers of the Greek government have been seeking to renew the existing bailout of €86bn on their country’s total debt of €330bn. Their creditors are the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission and the European Central Bank, known jointly as the Troika. The Troika has the right to review Greece’s progress and presumes to tell the Greek government what to do – otherwise no money will be forthcoming.

The Greek people elected the Greek government. Who elected the Troika? Democracy has been abolished in Greece.

Greek debt has been described as ‘explosive’ by the IMF. It predicts it may reach 275% of GDP by 2060. The IMF is well aware that this level of debt is unsustainable – it cannot possibly be repaid. Its report states, “Greece cannot grow out of its debt problem…Greece requires substantial debt relief from its European partners to restore debt sustainability.”

The IMF is at odds with the EU authorities on this – they are demanding their pound of flesh. Germany and its Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble are to the fore in their insistence that Greece continues to be bled dry. In this they are not only hardhearted but also hypocritical. In 1953 Britain and the USA wrote off the vast majority of (West) Germany’s debts. So where’s the debt forgiveness from Germany now?

Don’t think the IMF is the softy on this one. They are insisting on a ‘reform’ of Greek pensions. But Greek pensions have already been cut TWELVE TIMES since 2010 at the insistence of its creditors. The IMF understands that Greece will be quite simply incapable of ever repaying the debt. They are constitutionally bound to walk away from an impossible debt burden. That will leave the EU authorities as the chief bloodsuckers. And Greece has big repayments to make of €7.4bn on existing debts this coming June.

Is Greece trying to get itself out of this hole? Contrary to the frankly racist criticism of the ‘lazy’ Greeks, they ran a primary budget surplus of 2.3% of GDP in 2016 and aim at running a primary surplus of 3.5% this year. What does ‘primary budget surplus’ mean? It means that the Greek government is getting 2-3% of the country’s national income more in tax than it is spending.  The country is starving itself to death to pay its creditors. The consequences – 23% unemployment and a social security safety net in shreds.

The trouble is the country gets no benefit from this budget surplus. It all flows straight out of the country to the creditors – the dreaded Troika. Greece is being sucked dry. The country is in the same position of the debt slave in the song ‘Sixteen Tons’ – however hard its people work, they just get deeper in debt.

The EU authorities show no sign of making concessions before the deadline later this month. So as things stand there will be no further bailout for Greece.

Who is actually bailing out whom? The banks triggered the biggest financial crash since the Second World War in 2007-8 through their reckless lending. The automatic reaction of capitalist governments across the globe was to bail out the guilty banks at the expense of the innocent working class people who lost their jobs and had their livelihoods destroyed as a result of the crash.

In the case of Greece, one of the weakest capitalist countries, the French and German authorities in particular were determined to rescue their banks which had incautiously lent money to the Greeks. The first bailout in 2010 transferred the debt owed to private banks in northern Europe to the Troika. So it was the banks that were bailed out - at the expense of Greece.

Further background on the Greek crisis can be found here:

The Greek government is dominated by Syriza, elected on a firm anti-austerity programme. In July 2015 Syriza called a referendum on the Troika’s most recent demands for more austerity. A stunning 61% of the Greek people voted ‘Oxi’ (No). Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, then capitulated tamely to the demands of the Troika, to the misery of the Greek people. Naturally Syriza has been widely discredited and political demoralisation has spread.

But the demands of the Troika for pointless sacrifices are endless. It is not too late to turn the situation around. The Greeks should cancel the debt. Naturally that would provoke alarm among international capitalists and a flight of capital. To prevent that happening, the banks must be nationalised. That can only be successful with the enthusiastic support of the bank workers and the rest of the working class.

Capitalism has failed the Greek people completely. The fight against austerity is the fight for a better, socialist society.

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Another False Flag

3rd February 2017

Another False Flag

By Glyn Secker

Secretary of Free Speech On Israel, executive member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and captain of the Jewish boat to Gaza

A review of State Of Terror, How Terrorism Created Modern Israel by Thomas Suarez, Skyscraper Publications, £20

Researching this seminal work, Thomas Suarez found himself at The National Archives at Kew, an untapped library of primary sources from British officials, the British secret services, national journals and Zionist organisations themselves.

The received history of the creation of Israel is that, in the aftermath of the Holocaust and in the pursuit of a safe haven for Jews, attacks were targeted by the incipient Israeli army on the British garrison in Palestine, and in the quest for a state some atrocities were committed by small bands of extremists, the Irgun and Lehi (Stern) gangs.

Suarez’s research led him to an alternative narrative - that these small bands were integral components of the regular Jewish Agency’s Hagana, its elite corps, the Palmach, and Pum, its assassination unit. All were engaged in a programme of terror, where the end, Eretz Israel, justified Revisionist Zionism’s means. Their obstacles were the British, the other key players in the UN Partition plan, and the existing occupants of Palestine.

Violence to the Palestinians, modelled on the 18th century and 19th century pogroms in eastern Europe, commenced before World War I and rose to a crescendo between December 1947 and May 1948 with public bombings and the poisoning of wells with typhoid and dysentery, to provoke a reaction and a premise for full scale attack. Intelligence gatherers posing as hikers devised Plan Dalet - the massacre at Deir Yassin and 19 other villages, and the raising of hundreds more, creating the Nakba of 900,000 refugees. After Deir Yassin, the Irgun, under Menachem Begin, announced, “ We intend to attack, conquer and keep until we have the whole of Palestine and Transjordan in a greater Jewish state. This attack is the first step.”

Contrary to common belief this violence did not cease after 1948. Many pages document hundreds of attacks on the British presence in Palestine, which hit both military and civilian targets. Violence to the regional powers ranged from:
• assassination plans, with actual attempts on the lives of Churchill, Eden and Ernest Bevin; » sabotage of British forces during WWII;
• plans to explode bombs in London and UK facilities in France, Austria and Italy (most but not all foiled);
• false flag operations (the Lavon affair in Egypt, the Baghdad Trials in Iraq) to ‘create’ antisemitic movements to justify Zionist demands;
• the sinking of British ships carrying Jewish refugees diverted away from Palestine (causing 276 deaths);
• the training and use of child operators;
• assassinations of leading Jewish critics, whom they called Kikes (the ’N’ word for Jews) - most assassinations by Irgun and Stern were of anti-Zionist Jews;
• sabotaging Jewish anti-Zionist printing presses and institutions supporting a two state solution.

The Revisionists determined to direct Jewish refugees away from asylum offers and to exert pressure to send them to Palestine. Thus they were key in quashing Roosevelt’s 1938 plan to accept 400,000 from Nazi Germany. They maintained this policy even after there was knowledge of the camps from 1941. The litany is shocking. Many quotes from UK, UN, US and international observers compare the Revisionists and their military operators to the Nazis. It must be the author’s meticulous and voluminous referencing which has safeguarded him from legal action.

Corbyn’s rise to the leadership of the Labour Party created panic in both the British establishment and the Israeli lobby, whose counter-attack resurrected antisemitism, the historical weapon of political Zionism.

Prior to 1948 the Irgun and Stern gangs numbered 8,500, the Palmach 5,000 and the Hagana army and air force 90,000, with a fully armed call-up potential of 200,000. From within the comparatively small terrorist groups the future leaders of Israel could set the agenda of violence to build the Iron Wall of the father of the Irgun, Jabotinsky. With the British exhausted and desperate to withdraw, and the rule of law disintegrating, these terrorist groups, as small cogs in the gears of the military machine, dictated and drove the strategy to create mayhem across the Mandate to extract their demands. Conceived in a state of terror, terror became the new state’s modus vivendi, a macabre dance which continues today in the Occupied Territories.

Suarez’s book explains why commanders of the Irgun and Stern gangs - Begin, Ben-Gurion, and Shamir - became the new state’s leaders, why Israel has never defined its eastern border and why from 1949 successive peace talks have failed.

His account of the terror, which predated the Holocaust, exposes how political Zionism has deployed humanitarian Zionism to cloak its past. For many Jews Zionism is core to their identity, the solution to millennia of persecution. Suarez reveals it to have been yet another false flag.

Some Jews, however, disavow this Zionist tradition, reasserting Jewish and international values of human rights. While political Zionists wield their weapon of antisemitism, a stubborn minority argue that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism and reclaim the genuine Jewish socialism of the Bund, forged in the period of revolutionary working class organisation at the start of the 20th century. 

This article originally appeared in Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC

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Stop Tory Privatisation

2nd February 2017

Stop Tory Privatisation

By Mick Brooks

The Tories are hoping to sneak through another privatisation – giving away our public assets to private profiteers.

This time it’s the Green Investment Bank. The GIB was set up in 2012 during the Tory/LibDem coalition government as a sop to Vince Cable and the LibDems. The idea was to raise funds in order to finance long term ecologically sound investments such as wind farms, biomass projects and street lighting systems. The government realised that private firms were not doing that. Capitalists are notoriously greedy with short term profit horizons, so a public body could fill that gap.

Right away there were tensions within the coalition. George Osborne is a failed Chancellor. He promised to eliminate the government budget deficit by 2015. The latest prediction is that there’ll still be a deficit after 2020. Osborne was obsessed with raising cash to pay down the deficit, even at the expense of selling off potentially valuable assets. He demanded that the GIB ‘stand on its own two feet’. GIB did ‘stand on its own two feet’, despite the long profit horizons that such green projects it invests in necessarily entail. The GIB has raised £2.7bn from the markets so far, with a respectable 10% return in prospect.

That makes it a juicy target. Public sector bodies can’t win in a capitalist economy dominated by Tory neoliberal thinking. If they don’t make money (even if that is not what they were set up to do) then that shows that the public sector can’t deliver. If they do deliver, then they should be handed over to the tender mercies of private capital.

In 2016 privatisation of the GIB was mooted by the Business Secretary Sajid Javid. Javid is a right wing ideologue, a disciple of Ayn Rand. According to his view ‘free market’ capitalism delivers the best of all possible worlds. So in that case why do we need a Business Secretary?  Javid was described as a Fredo Corleone figure, who saw his only tasks as pouring drinks and procuring hookers for important visitors.

While he was fantasising about free markets, the crisis in Port Talbot steel, which threatened thousands of jobs, caught him on the hop. It also raised important questions - such as why decisions by a firm based thousands of miles away can threaten the livelihoods of working class people here, and in that case how come markets are so wonderful? The Labour opposition correctly accused Javid of “incompetence and laziness.”

Javid has gone and Greg Clark is the new Business Secretary, but the policy of looting the state remains centre stage. The Scottish government is not happy.  They have been kept in the dark by the Tories at Westminster. GIB’s main offices are in Edinburgh. The SNP smells a rat. Their spokesperson says, “Reports have indicated that the completion of the transaction process will result in the complete break-up of the current Green Investment Bank portfolio and may result in an asset-stripping exercise with significant financial rewards for any new owner.

The preferred bidder the Tories have lined up is an Australian financial conglomerate called Macquarie. The firm is unaffectionately known as ‘the vampire kangaroo’. Complex financial shenanigans mean that despite all its assets (including Thames Water) it pays next to no corporation tax here. Macquarie is so confident of all the money they will make by buying the GIB at a knockdown price and breaking it up that they are already seeking bids for the shattered fragments it proposes to dispose of. Macquarie is not interested in green projects; it is interested in making the maximum money in the shortest possible time. Returns of 30% from the asset stripping have been mentioned.  Jobs in the GIB funded projects will inevitably go, and Britain will fall behind in the renewable energy sector. The only thing green about the proposed deal is the attitude of the Tories.

Clive Lewis, Labour shadow Business Secretary, declared, “Privatising the GIB makes no sense whatsoever. The bank is both a great success as a public institution and providing a healthy return to the taxpayer. It’s been multiplying our ability to build substantial low carbon infrastructure and fight climate change.”

Protest is building. The privatisation of GIB has stalled. Even the right wing paper ‘City A.M.’ opposes the sale. It’s not too late to stop the rip-off.

 

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Hands Off Our NHS

1st February 2017

By Cathy Augustine

On Saturday 28th January 2017, Hands Off Our NHS! organised a HOWL of protest event in Westminster against STPs and the defunding and privatisation of our NHS. Our aim was to raise awareness of the further damage that the government’s secret “Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) will inflict on our NHS - and to build for the national demo on 4th March organised by Health Campaigns Together and People’s Assembly.


The STPs are designed to underfund the NHS by a further £22bn, leaving our services ripe for sell-off and privatisation, with our NHS remaining merely as a logo stamped over companies running healthcare for profit, not for patients and staff.

We are fighting to restore our NHS as a publicly funded, publicly owned, publicly managed and publicly delivered – free at the point of use, depending on need, not the size of your wallet!
There were more than 300 people at the protest and the amazing campaign groups present included:

Keep Our NHS Public (KONP)
Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital!...
Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC)
Bursary or Bust
Keep Our St Hellier Hospital!
Unite Health/Unite Community
Momentum NHS
Horton Hospital Campaign
Junior Doctors’ Alliance
Ealing Save Our Hospital Campaign
999 Call for the NHS
The GMB
Save Charing Cross Hospital
Save Lewisham Hospital

Speakers included:

David Matthew Bailey - A&E nurse and NHS activist
Aneira Thomas - the first NHS baby born 1 minute after midnight on the day of it’s introduction; named after Nye Bevan
Fiona Dent - Labour Party National Policy Forum
Jac Berry - Nurse and Unison NEC member and organiser of ‘It’s our NHS’ Demo
Kishan Rees - WatMed media and Junior Doctor
Aislinn Macklin-Doherty - Junior Doctor JDA
Paula Peters - DPAC
Eve Turner - Ealing Save our Hospital Campaign
Sarah Stock & Melissa Darcey - Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital
Tony O’Sullivan - KONP co-chair
Peter Stefanovic Lawyer and campaigner


There were also HOWL events in Leeds, Liverpool and Barnstaple.

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Don’t Let Trump Visit

30th January 2017

Don’t Let Trump Visit

Jeremy Corbyn writes to Theresa May

Let no one be in doubt that I will oppose, and the Labour Party will oppose, all those who fan the flames of fear at home and abroad.

I support the demand of millions of British people: Donald Trump should not be welcomed on a State Visit to this country while he continues to propagate his anti-women, anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican policies.

This world defeated segregation, we defeated Apartheid and we will defeat this nasty policy created to sow division and hatred.

His invite should be withdrawn until the executive orders are gone and every element of them repealed.

History judges us by the actions we take in opposing oppression.

I am proud that during the 1980s and 1990s I stood with Labour Party members, trade unionists and faith leaders opposing the racist regime of South Africa.
I was there on the day Margaret Thatcher opened her door to P.W. Botha while Nelson Mandela languished in a prison cell.

Margret Thatcher and the Conservative Party were on the wrong side of history then just as Theresa May and her Conservative Party are on the wrong side of history today.

The Labour party stands unequivocally with those demonstrating today and will do so until we are victorious.

I have written to Theresa May to demand that she withdraws her offer to Donald Trump of a State Visit.

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Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit

29th January 2017

Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit

Labour campaigned in last year’s referendum to remain in the European Union — and nearly two-thirds of Labour voters voted to remain.

As we all know, the result was a vote to leave.

We are not a party for the 48% or the 52%, but for everyone. We have an important role to play in bringing the country together and getting the best possible deal from Brexit.

Labour respects the will of the British people. But we do not respect the will of a Tory government that is threatening to relegate Britain to a bargain basement tax haven.

That’s why we will vote to trigger Article 50 in the European Union Withdrawal Bill — but also will use every means at our disposal to make sure jobs, living standards, workers’ rights and environmental protections are protected in the negotiations that follow.

So Labour has tabled a series of amendments to the Bill to ensure there is meaningful parliamentary scrutiny at every stage and a vote on the final deal.

We have also tabled an amendment to build in the broad principles we need to get the best outcome for our country — including tariff-free access to the single market and an anti-tax haven amendment to make sure the Prime Minister does not use Brexit as an excuse to duck out of tackling tax avoidance and evasion.

And we will support amendments to ensure the Tories don’t yet again attack people’s rights at work.

This is a difficult moment for our party. We campaigned to remain, but we have to accept the democratic result.

We will be reaching out to our friends and allies in the European socialist and progressive parties to help secure an agreement that strengthens cooperation and solidarity across Europe.

We must remember that what unites us is far stronger than what divides us: our commitment to defend our NHS, to campaign against the Tories’ cuts to schools and social care — and our determination to build a country in which no one and no community is left behind.

We will vote for Article 50, but we will not be giving the Tories a blank cheque on their damaging agenda for Brexit — or any of their other failures.

Best wishes,

Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Labour Party

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Left Slate: Please Publicise

24th January 2017

Left Slate: Please Publicise

On January 21st the LRC National Executive Committee voted and agreed to endorse the following candidates for the positions on the Labour Party National Constitutional Committee (NCC) and Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC)

*Please copy + paste + share*

Below are the details of the candidates for Labour’s 2017 internal elections that need nominations at CLP meetings
CLPs have to make their nominations and elect their Conference delegates by Friday 23 June. Many CLPs are likely to act on this early in the year.

2 CLP reps on the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC).
Please nominate:
- Seema Chandwani (Tottenham CLP, Labour Party Membership Number: L1187007)
- Billy Hayes. (Mitcham and Morden CLP, Labour Party Membership Number A065571)
The election for these reps is by One Member One Vote ballot this summer.

2 CLP reps on the National Constitutional Committee (NCC)
Please nominate:
- Anna Dyer (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn CLP, Labour Party Membership Number L0081865)
- Emine Ibrahim (Hornsey and Wood Green CLP, Labour Party Membership Number L0150489)
The election of these reps is by CLP delegates at Annual Conference in September.

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Momentum and the LRC

21st January 2017

Momentum and the LRC

The following motions on Momentum were passed at the LRC NEC on January 21st 2017

1) The LRC rejects the new constitution imposed upon Momentum. The new constitution dissolves the existing democratic structures of Momentum – the National Committee, the Conference Arrangements Committee and the Steering Committee – without proper discussion and without even consulting the first two of these bodies. It puts in their place a National Co-ordinating Group and a Members’ Council. Neither of these bodies have yet been elected or selected, so at present there is no governing body of Momentum at all.  Even when the National Co-ordinating Group and Members’ Council are in place there is no proper means of their members being made accountable to the membership. We shall fight for a democratic alternative to the new constitution.

We condemn the way this new constitution has been put in place, with a simple email to the members of the Steering Committee asking for a Yes/No reply, with no discussion and replies from a bare majority of the Steering Committee without explanation deemed sufficient to dissolve the existing democratic structures.

We reject the fact that the new constitution abolishes the regional structures of Momentum currently in place. It also thereby cancels co-ordination between regions.

We reject the fact that the new constitution abolishes the power of the Conference to be a decision-making body.

We reject the fact that the new constitution makes Momentum a body where all members of Momentum are required to be Labour Party members. While we believe that all members should be encouraged and convinced to become Labour Party members, the best way to achieve this is not by demanding LP membership as a precondition of becoming a member of Momentum. This rule also means that those unjustly expelled from the Party are ineligible for membership of Momentum.

We call on all members of Momentum to maintain their membership and to campaign for it to become a democratic organisation. The LRC campaigns for Momentum to become a mass fighting socialist organisation committed to winning the widest support in the labour movement and in British society in order to win support for the policies on which Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership and to elect a Labour government committed to these policies.

The LRC shall also be sending a delegation to the Momentum National Committee (which the new constitution claims to have abolished) due to meet on January 28th 2017.

We want the LRC’s views on this matter to be published as widely as possible on our website and on social media.

2) The LRC condemns the undemocratic closing down of elected bodies within Momentum, by its legal owner, Jon Lansman. We recognise that the particular history of Momentum’s brief existence required the transition from initial set up of a private company to a full-fledged socialist and Labour Party orientated organisation, which gave power to ordinary members through election processes and the formation of democratically elected representative bodies. The organic forms of representation that developed in local areas, in the form of branches and local groups, reflected the desire of Labour Party members and Corbyn supporters to build a coherent left, with a mission to transform the Labour Party as a vehicle of democratic socialist policies and for government, both locally and on a national scale. We acknowledge Jon Lansman has used his legal private ownership and staff he has appointed at the London office to circumvent the wishes of the wider active membership based in branches and local groups to destroy the current emerging national structure of Momentum.

We therefore resolve to endorse the following:

1. not to accept Momentum’s offer of a place on their National Co-ordinating Group, as outlined in their new constitution, as we cannot give legitimacy to its undemocratic actions;

2. support measures to continue the plans for a national conference of what would have been representatives from local Momentum groups;

 

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Corbyn is right, action on high pay is overdue

10th January 2017

Corbyn is right,
action on high pay is overdue

By Michael Calderbank

For decades now, politicians have criticised the culture of lavish executive pay and bonuses.  But there has been precious little action.  John Major used to ask Chief Executives to “exercise restraint”. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown would ask shareholders to “show some responsibility”. But their moralistic pleading fell on deaf ears.  Britain’s bosses wanted to get their snouts in the trough, even though many of their employees were pushed into poverty.

The High Pay Centre’s most recent report (2016) showed the pay of leading FTSE 100 company Chief Executives have just rocketed by a further 10%, meaning that in total - including pensions and bonuses – they earn 129 times more than their typical employees.

Finally, in Jeremy Corbyn, we have a politician who means to do something about it. Rather than show their panic, the rich have resorted to mockery, as though it was inherently absurd to tackle their greed. But Corbyn’s words will be welcomed by millions across the country who are sick of being taken for a ride. 

Like all policies, this will need to examine carefully to see exactly how it can be implemented in practice. There are a number of options, including caps, maximum pay ratios, tax incentives, or public procurement conditions. It’s also true that the very rich are accustomed to pay for lawyers, accountants and advisers to devise avoidance schemes and find loopholes.

But let no-one be in any doubt. It’s time to make the rich pay, and Jeremy Corbyn is determined to do it. He deserves our full support.

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Israeli State Subverting Democracy in the UK

10th January 2017

Israeli State Subverting Democracy in the UK

By Graham Bash and Mick Brooks

Revelations from the Al Jazeera news company that Shai Masot, based at the Israeli Embassy, was bugged threatening to “take down” British MPs who opposed his government’s aggressively expansionist policies should be met with consternation. Who is this person? What right does he think he has to interfere in British democracy? Is money from the Israeli government being used to subvert the democratic process here? What does he mean by “taking down” MPs?

Instead the Foreign Office has met the news with feigned boredom, declaring the matter closed. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has correctly dubbed Masot’s statements an “improper interference in our democratic politics” and emphasised that “this is a national security issue.”  Thornberry added, “The exposure of an Israeli embassy official discussing how to bring down or discredit a government minister and other MPs because of their views on the Middle East is extremely disturbing. Improper interference in our democratic politics by other states is unacceptable whichever country is involved.”

A former Minister in Cameron’s Cabinet wrote anonymously in the ‘Mail on Sunday’ (08.01.17) that “British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence.” It is humiliating and just plain wrong that Britain can be treated like a banana republic to be bribed and kicked around by the Israeli government.

Masot is a member of the Israeli Defence Force. So what is he doing over here? It is not unusual for foreign embassies to be a nest of spies. Masot’s target in the overheard conversation was the Tory MP Sir Alan Duncan, who has in the past compared Israeli government policy towards the Arabs to the former apartheid regime in South Africa.

We have found out that Israeli spooks are also actively involved in subverting the Labour Party. One conduit is the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). The Wikipedia entry on the subject herestates that more than 60 Labour MPs were invited to visit the State of Israel from 2001-9, all expenses paid. Who paid for these jollies, we wonder? Masot reveals that he obtained more than £1 million from the State of Israel has for this hospitality. Surely these are bribes.

Wikipedia also provides a list of the ‘Friends’. They include Tony Blair, David Blunkett, Gordon Brown, Mike Gapes and Margaret Hodge. Readers who examine the list will notice that they are overwhelmingly from the right of the Party. Masot regards Jeremy Corbyn as ‘crazy’. “I would prefer that the party will not stay with Corbyn,” he says. What on earth is it to do with him?

In the recordings, Masot boasts of establishing organisations “in Israel and here (in the UK)”. When asked what he meant, he replied, “Nothing I can share, but yeah,” The LFI came up in the conversation. Masot felt that he needed to set up a youth group of LFI. How much would this be a creation of Israeli intelligence? A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse. “Yeah, because there are things that, you know, happen, but it’s good to leave those organisations independent. But we help them, actually.”

There has recently been a flood of accusations of antisemitism within the Labour Party. The tales lacked only one thing – evidence. The LRC and the Labour Party as a whole stand four square in opposition to antisemitism, a form of racism against Jews. If antisemitism raises its ugly head in or movement it has to be stamped out.

But the cheap trick that the supporters of Zionist expansionism have carried out is to deliberately conflate any criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism. Jackie Walker of the LRC has been singled out for these attacks. Pete Firmin has shown this squalid trick up for what it is.
here

Oppose the illegal settlements in the West Bank? Then you’re an antisemite! Feel sympathy for the Arabs’ plight in Gaza? You must be a racist!

In fact the big majority of Jewish people in the world do not live in Israel. People who are rightly proud of their Jewish identity should not be strong-armed into supporting the policies of the Israeli government with this bogus argument. Would those of us who marched against the illegal invasion of Iraq be regarded as anti-British racists?

Incidentally there is an interesting article in the latest issue of ‘International Socialism’ which shows that support for Zionist aims coexisted with vile antisemitism among leading Labour figures for decades past. here

Jeremy Corbyn is the first Labour leader who has been solidly committed to the Palestinian cause for decades past. That is why powerful forces are trying to undermine him and smear him and his supporters with the association of antisemitism.

Who is using whom? The Israeli Embassy is using right wing figures in the Labour Party to spread fantasies about widespread antisemitism in the Corbyn camp. On the other hand right wing Labour is using false briefings to undermine the Corbyn leadership, and it seems is being supported in doing this by the Israeli government.

Millions of Americans were outraged when they found out that the Russian government was interfering in the presidential elections. The Tories apparently couldn’t care less that the world knows that “British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence.” We support Emily Thornberry’s denunciation of the Israeli Embassy’s interference in British politics and her call for an enquiry into the affair.

But for Labour Party members the matter goes deeper. Are agents of a foreign power interfering in the affairs of our Party? Are members of the Labour Party taking money from the State of Israel to help them undermine our elected leader? If so, this has got to stop. We need the NEC to investigate the infiltration of the Israeli Embassy into the affairs of the Labour Party.

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These ‘Immigrant Bashing’ Articles By Labour MPs Need To Stop

8th January 2017

By Seema Chandwani

It appears there is a section of the Labour party who are obsessed with anti-immigrant post-truth sentiment. One cannot help wonder if it is merely an attempt to sell-off the ‘control immigration’ mugs collecting dust somewhere in the stockrooms at Labour HQ.

Today we see the latest contribution from Stephen Kinnock alongside Emma Reynolds in The Guardian.

I will admit the title got me excited; “People are worried about immigration – Labour must devise a fair system to unite the country”. ‘Great!’ I thought, we are finally going to address the concerns many Immigrants are worried about like raids, deaths and rapes in detention centres and deportations. But sadly, I was soon disappointed.

It starts by stating “The EU referendum was a vote for change on immigration…” well, no it was not. People voted to leave for a myriad of complex reasons including a belief in regaining sovereignty, a hint of nationalism, a concern that so much money was given to the EU (which apparently could go to the NHS), a non-understanding of how the EU works, perception of EU policy on the decline in industry and a concern about the oppressive nature of the EU toward countries like Greece.

Whilst immigration was a concern and motivation for some, to boldly claim the whole referendum was solely a vote on immigration is simply not true.

Moving on, the second paragraph states “Some in the Labour party claim the proponents of managed migration are “Ukip-lite”. We reject this argument, which leaves a vacuum for the right to fill”. This part confused me, whilst it rejected the ‘UKIP-lite’ label, it did not say why but went onto, in the same sentence, imply that if we did not go along with their thinking, the right [assume UKIP] will fill the vacuum.

What does this even mean? If Labour does not bash Immigrants, someone else will?

It then went on to say: “Labour has tended to attribute concerns about immigration to overstretched public services and unscrupulous employers, and tried to counter those anxieties with facts about the overall benefits of immigration”. What, are the authors criticising Labour for…. using facts!! ... Eh?

Next it said “people are worried about more than pressures on jobs, wages and housing: they are anxious about culture, identity and the rate of change of communities” and then went on in the same paragraph to say; “Many of the areas that voted Leave on 23 June have little or no EU immigration, so it is clear that concerns are not limited to the areas that have experienced large and rapid inward migration flows.”

If people who voted Leave in June were not from areas which experienced EU immigration, surely this has refuted the whole basis of the argument the authors were trying to make. It proves the EU Referendum was not people voting about immigration.

In fact in areas with higher immigration tended to vote Remain (Economist July 2016) which completely proves this hypothesis is nonsense.

The article then proposed a two-tier immigration policy based predominately on the skills immigrants will bring. This was their proposal, all two paragraphs of it. It says nothing on how this will tackle the aforementioned alleged concerns people had about pressure on jobs, wages and housing. Nor did it say how it would prevent any of these people coming with their cultures.

In a nutshell, it made broad-based assumptions about why 52% of those who voted, chose to vote on a complex subject like The EU. It contradicted those assumptions with real evidence that many of those who voted ‘Leave’ were not affected by any of the issues they claimed people had. Then it came up with a solution that did not address any of the problems it claimed people had. 

In a Tweet, the article was nonsense.

The article ended featuring one ironic line: “the conflicting signals that we are sending out on immigration are deeply corrosive to our standing in the country”.

This I agree with – these Immigrant bashing articles by Labour MPs need to stop.

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Reverse These Deeply Unfair Tax Giveaways And Start Properly Investing In Our Vital Public Services

8th January 2017

John McDonnell

New analysis by the Labour Party, using official data, shows cuts in Corporation Tax under the Tories could have paid for much needed teachers, police officers and nurses.

The cost of Corporation Tax cuts worth almost £15 billion by 2021 is equivalent to the cost of employing 10,000 teachers, 10,000 police officers and 12,000 nurses, full-time, every year, for a decade.

The figures highlight the impact of the Tories’ cuts to Corporation Tax.

We have known for a long time that the Tories’ cuts to Corporation Tax have cost the Exchequer billions, and we have laid bare what this means for our public services.

Labour is calling on the Government to reverse these deeply unfair tax giveaways and start properly investing in our vital public services

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Education Policy In Turmoil

8th January 2017

By Kevin Courtney

Education Secretary Justine Greening has abandoned the last vestiges of Nicky Morgan’s Education Excellence Everywhere white paper. This is a stunning victory for parent and teacher campaigners.

In the summer, Nicky Morgan was forced to drop her proposal to legislate for all schools to become academies by 2022 - but she said she would legislate to convert all schools in local authorities that had reached a so-called tipping point, if a certain percentage of schools had voluntarily converted. Justine Greening has now abandoned even that proposal. This means that no school should now feel pressurised into converting to an academy on the grounds that it is ‘inevitable‘ - which opens the door to local campaigns against academy conversions.

It is good news that plans to undermine qualified teacher status have also been abandoned. This has been a concern not just of teacher unions but also of UCU. And plans to carry out SATs re-tests in year 7 have also been dropped. All this shows that government education policy is in turmoil.

But abandoning bad policies isn’t the same as implementing good ones. So it’s important for parent and teacher campaigns to continue to defend and improve educational opportunities for all our children.

Together with the ATL, the NUT has launched a new website that we believe will be a powerful campaigning tool on the subject of school and college education cuts - cuts which are leading to increased class sizes and reductions in subject choices in many schools. The website - www.schoolcuts.org.uk - shows cuts at individual schools and we hope parents and teachers will use it to stimulate demonstrations and local anti- cuts meetings.

But it’s not just funding that’s a problem in our schools at the moment. The assessment of primary children is a real mess, with nearly half of eleven year olds told they hadn’t reached the ‘expected standard’ last summer. Together with a range of parent and professional bodies, the NUT is building for a real alternative to the current dysfunctional systems of assessment of primary children and we are calling for SATs tests not to go ahead next summer. We’d very much like primary school parents and school governors to get in touch via the More Than A Score website - just google it! We believe that in building for a better education system we are best placed to resist the siren calls for an expansion of selection at eleven.

The NUT has many members working hard and doing an excellent job in the existing grammar schools and the secondary moderns that surround them. But evidence points to comprehensives as the best way to educate our young people. We want to work with Labour in campaigning not just against segregation at age 11, but also against the school and college cuts and for a better education system for all our children. 

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Theresa May Offers No Solutions

8th January 2017

Jon Trickett MP

Six failed years of the Tories have given us a crisis in the NHS, economic failure and working people worse off, and Theresa May clearly has no idea what to do about it. The only thing she offers is an empty slogan.

With the NHS in crisis, we need a plan to fix it and give it the funding it needs - but this morning a complacent Theresa May wouldn’t even recognise there’s an issue. She offered warm words about a ‘fair deal’ but hasn’t a clue what that means, running a government which has seen working people worse off.

On Brexit there are still no clear objectives on getting the best deal for Britain, prompting her to complain that her thinking isn’t ‘muddled’ yet offering no evidence to the contrary.

Tory failure means Britain is worse off and Theresa May offers no solutions.

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After Six Wasted Years of Tory Economic Failure - The National Debt Continues to Rise

29th December 2016

John McDonnell MP

The ONS public sector finance figures out last week, show that public sector net debt has increased by £58.6bn since November 2015 and is now at £1,655.1 billion at the end of November 2016, equivalent to 84.5 per cent of GDP.

After six wasted years of Tory economic failure, supported by both Philip Hammond and Theresa May, the deficit has not been cleared as they promised, and the national debt continues to rise.

Yet despite their broken promises on the public finances they continue to hand out huge tax giveaways to big business and a wealthy few, while enforcing spending cuts on everyone else; underfunding our NHS and leaving our care system in crisis for the most vulnerable this Christmas.

Only Labour has a serious plan for public finances with strategic investment underpinned by our Fiscal Credibility Rule, to help build an economy where no one and no community is left behind.

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What Momentum Should Do

29th December 2016

By Mick Brooks

Momentum was set up in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign in 2015 to become leader of the Labour Party. This was an inspiring movement involving hundreds of thousands of people who not only joined the Labour Party to vote for Corbyn but also staffed phone banks and worked hard to convince others that his election could be a turning point in British politics.

Jeremy was elected in 2015 and, despite challenges to his leadership, was re-elected in 2016 with an even bigger mandate. This was a tremendous achievement. There is no doubt that Momentum deserves much of the credit for the mobilisation behind Jeremy in 2016. We hope there will not be an annual challenge to his leadership, though there are no guarantees. The 2016 contest was a complete waste of time and energy imposed on us by his opponents.
It is also the case that many local Momentum groups have done sterling work in their communities, bringing credit to Momentum and drawing people towards a reinvigorated Labour Party, usually under their own initiative and without instruction from the centre. It goes without saying that this should continue, but Momentum nationally needs to do more.

How can Momentum help Jeremy Corbyn to survive as leader and become Prime Minister? Momentum was born out of support from what is believed to be almost 200,000 supporters on the Momentum database. It was set up as a membership organisation in early 2016 and now claims more than 20,000 members. This could and should be a significant force in British politics.

What should Momentum do to advance the Corbynist agenda? Jeremy is beset by the onslaught of the mainstream press and media. That is almost inevitable for an overtly socialist leader of the main opposition party.

Throughout this period Jeremy’s leadership has been also under constant threat from opposition by the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and the full-time Party bureaucracy. His position remains in peril. Momentum must be more than a Jeremy Corbyn fan club if it is to protect his position. It needs to involve its members in the Labour party to counter the plotters, and it requires national direction to be effective. Who will discuss and plan this and carry it out?
Not all members of Momentum are Labour Party members, yet it is in the Party where Corbyn and his supporters are also under constant attack. It is quite correct that Momentum should not demand that all its members join the Labour Party. It must be involved in community campaigns but, if their objectives are to be achieved, the organisation must involve itself in the struggle to transform the Labour Party. Members should be encouraged to get involved in the Labour Party and given advice as to how to work effectively within its structures. At present this is not happening.

The Labour Party Conference in 2016, supposedly the supreme policy-making body, was a disappointing one for the left and Momentum supporters in some respects. The Corbyn-led surge in membership of the Party received only a pale reflection in Conference decisions. In the view of Momentum NC member Matt Wrack, the General Secretary of the FBU, the right wing ran rings round us.

In the first place the delegates selected did not adequately reflect the transformation in the membership that had taken place at a constituency level. Of course Momentum was a very new organisation at the time that CLPs were electing their delegates. It is also the case that there is an entrenched right wing at local level, anxious to hold on to their positions in the Party and acutely aware of how to manipulate the Rule Book in their own interests.

There was no advice to delegates, such as a daily briefing provided by Momentum, to help them with complex decisions such as on resolutions that have been composited, priorities for resolutions to be discussed and when it was necessary to challenge the Chair and the Conference Arrangements Committee (there were some outrageous decisions in the course of the Conference).

Momentum’s main intervention at Conference was The World Transformed. Though an impressive series of activities by all accounts it was held at some distance from the main Conference and came across as a separate event, semi-detached from the Conference itself. It did not threaten the right wing’s ascendancy on the Conference floor in any way.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) is supposed to be the principal policy-making body between Conferences. It is quite clear from reports of recent NEC meetings that it does not reflect the leftward-leaning nature of the Labour Party now, and has been used to launch attacks on Corbyn and his policies. There have been no serious left caucus meetings beforehand, unlike with the right wing. Caucusing is difficult, as Momentum has little support at NEC level, and many trade union delegates follow their own or their union’s policy inclinations.

All the same Momentum, as potentially the main left wing force within the Labour Party, does not have its own agenda for NEC meetings and it should have. Those who regard themselves as Momentum supporters should press the case for a left caucus. Momentum does not appear to have a list of priorities for the Party and its activities. Somebody has to draw this up.

Elections to the NEC are held by different sections of the Party. The CLPs allegedly elected six delegates from the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) this year. Allegedly, because one candidate from the CLGA in particular, Ann Black, has been involved as part of the right wing on the NEC. For instance she advocated closing down Brighton and Hove CLP on totally spurious grounds because it had been taken over by left wing Momentum supporters at the AGM. We want NEC members with a clear Corbynite agenda representing the transformation that has taken place in the Labour Party since Jeremy became leader.
In fact the CLGA candidates are not accountable in any way once elected to the NEC. They are selected by a shadowy body through negotiations. Momentum, despite being the biggest and most significant part of the left within the LP, plays no official part in these negotiations. It should be involved as long as the CLGA decides the left wing slate. That would mean sending representatives to the meetings, not just an email. Momentum cannot be represented by an algorithm!
Jon Lansman is a member of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy – CLPD - which is part of the CLGA, as well as being the founding Chair of Momentum. Lansman is also, as a member of the CLPD, well aware of the importance of CLPD’s ‘Yellow Pages’ bulletin in explaining issues and clarifying decisions to Conference delegates over many years. Momentum needs to take over and revitalise this active policy towards intervening in Labour Party meetings.

The inertia and slow progress by the left at the top of the Labour Party is largely due to lack of pressure at constituency level. Local branches in many areas have been effectively dead for many years. Change is needed, but it will not be easy. A change for the better here requires a pro-active policy from Momentum, for example, including but not only advising its members as to deadlines for resolutions and elections to posts within the local parties.

This would necessarily involve drawing up and circulating slates for bodies such as the National Policy Forum (NPF). It is true that the NPF was deliberately cooked up by the Blairites to hijack policy-making from Conference but, while it exists, the left and Momentum should do its best to capture positions on it.

If Jeremy Corbyn is to become Prime Minister, then his ten pledges here have to be fleshed out and campaigned for as concrete policies within the structures of the Labour Party. A pledge such as ‘Full Employment and an Economy that Works for All’ is more an aspiration than a set of policies. The only concrete policy proposed is to establish a National Investment Bank which will invest £500 billion in infrastructure and create jobs in the process. Nobody can object to a “high skilled, high tech, low carbon economy that ends austerity and leaves no one and nowhere left behind,” but more detail is needed to make the case plausible. This is particularly the case since a majority of the PLP is clearly not on board with Corbyn’s reform agenda. As a result too many voters don’t know what Labour stands for. The ten pledges are potentially an attractive vote-winning programme, but they need to be spelled out, explained and campaigned on inside the Labour Party and in the country as well.

They also need to be expanded upon. Jeremy is a socialist but the ten pladges are not a socialist programme. A Corbyn-led Labour government will meet ferocious resistance and economic sabotage from the establishment. What is required is a clear commitment from Momentum to a socialist programme for Labour, understanding, mobilising against and facing down hostility from the right wing forces that such a government will inevitably encounter.

There have been several enormous demonstrations organised by the People’s Assembly and the TUC over recent years, reflecting the mass anger of working people against austerity and what it is doing to our communities. Many of those taking part have been Momentum members and supporters. Yet Momentum has a minimal organised presence there in the form of banners and should always have a contingent proportionate to its importance on the British left.

Though the Labour Party institutions we have mentioned are national they can only be changed by action at a local level, but action in local constituencies must be co-ordinated nationally to be effective. That requires leadership. To be respected leadership must be earned, and for leaders to be respected they must be elected. Momentum must develop a democratic leadership structure very soon if it is to function effectively. The above list of unfulfilled tasks is illustrative, not comprehensive. There is no sign that these tasks are being taken up any time soon or even thought about seriously among the majority of the present Momentum leadership circles.

How are these unresolved issues to be dealt with? Clearly it is unrealistic to expect miracles from a new organisation still finding its feet. Yet the energy and enthusiasm shown by the rank and file is not being tapped. There is a vacuum at the top of Momentum. The staff at HQ seem to see the centre as a post box to the membership rather than a democratic decision-making process. Nationally there is little democracy in Momentum. Will the forthcoming founding conference settle that? That depends.

The OMOV election results for the NC and other positions within Momentum (OMOV elections and alterations to the composition of the National Committee) for Dec 1st 2016 present a depressing picture. The highest turnout was in the West Midlands at 16.6%. This is pathetic. Yet all the voters had to do was click on a name. Six candidates presented themselves for election in this region. Who were they? How do you know who to vote for? What is their record? While useful in some areas, OMOV does not provide a proper basis for an informed democracy, either on people or on policies.

Many questions arise in relation to OMOV; quite frivolous policies can be posted for people to vote for online. People at home can be overwhelmed by the range of choices. Who is to whittle them down to a manageable number of important decisions? Who designs and decides what survey questions are sent from Momentum?

The present debate within Momentum has been presented as one between supporters of OMOV versus those in favour of delegate democracy. This is a false antithesis. Nobody has ruled out OMOV as a method of voting altogether. The real issue is whether Momentum will develop accountable structures capable of providing leadership in the tasks lying ahead.

All roads lead to Rome. The vigorous democratic structures in most local groups are however not replicated at a regional and national level. What is urgently needed above all is for elected officers to take democratic decisions, on often complex but important matters, tactical and strategic. These people must be trusted and they must be accountable. The decision making process must be transparent. Unless and until that happens Momentum will not achieve what it can do and must do if it is to get a Corbyn-led Labour government.

What is the future for Momentum? For too many of the current leadership it has been merely to continue to act as a ‘rah-rah’ chorus for Jeremy Corbyn. It goes without saying that the election of Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party is probably the biggest step forward for the left in Britain for decades. But the Parliamentary leadership of this movement is based on two main figures, Jeremy and John McDonnell. Then there are a handful of very promising younger MPs who were selected after the icy grip of the Blairite machine on the selection process (which produced only mediocrities and ‘Yes’ men and women) was released a bit. This is a fragile basis indeed for transforming the country.

This Parliamentary leadership desperately needs a movement in the country to back them one hundred per cent, but also to criticise backsliding if necessary and to take independent initiatives to drive the movement forward. Corbyn also needs much more support in Parliament to be successful. The dead wood of the Blair era must be replaced over time as the Labour Party is transformed from top to bottom.

How will Momentum fulfil those tasks? Is it perceived as a temporary movement thrown up in the wake of the Corbynista movement? Will it just disappear? That would be a tragedy in view of the mass energy and enthusiasm it has generated. Or will it, or the members it has mobilised and inspired, make a permanent difference to the British political landscape? A clear socialist perspective is required. We must all strive to make socialism the common sense of the twenty-first century. The membership of Momentum will be a significant part of that movement for hope and a better future.

Momentum has a choice. It can go forward from here along the lines we have suggested; otherwise it will inevitably roll back, dissipate all the enthusiasm generated at its outset and become increasingly irrelevant over time.

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Meet Housing Need And Help Power The Economy!

28th December 2016

By Barry Ewart

A comprehensive housing policy by Labour would not only help to address the current housing crisis in the UK but could also help to contribute to state-led public investment which could power the economy out of recession.  To achieve this perhaps Labour could: 

• Introduce rent controls in the private rented sector and use the billions saved from the current £29b housing benefit bill (mainly paid to private landlords) to refurbish the thousands of empty homes around the UK to socially rent and buy which could be done by local authorities, housing associations or housing cooperatives.  With these properties already being on site it could also save some brown field and green field land.
• Build hundreds of thousands of affordable good quality (Parker Morris standard) new homes per year to rent socially or to buy.
• Refurbish run down social housing estates (in consultation with residents) as well as greening them up with park areas and add community amenities. 
• Scrap the bedroom tax.
• Allow 16 year olds plus to rent social housing including single tenancies.
• Introduce a statutory right to tenant consultation in all housing sectors including for leaseholders and a better security of tenure for all.
• Reintroduce taxes on private landlords with multiple properties (cut by the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition Government).
• Make private landlords responsible for tenant behaviour like social landlords (a bill talked out by 2 Tory MPs who just happened to be private landlords).
• Look at more flexible mortgages for potential owner/occupiers where you buy 50% and rent 50% and can convert to renting if you hit hard times.
• Explore the possibility of extending the model for owner/occupation in some housing conservation areas (where you buy 50% and get the rest on a 120 year lease) to mainstream owner/occupation so we may get back to people actually buying nice homes to actually live in rather than buying housing as purely a valuable commodity.

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Military Action is not the Answer for Aleppo

24th December 2016

By Liz Davies and Mike Phipps

What is happening in Aleppo is a human rights calamity.

It’s impossible to watch the footage without wanting to do something, immediately. That leads some on the left to surprising positions.

Disrupting Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on December 10 did nothing to help civilians in Aleppo; it diverted attention from the important pledges he made on women and human rights. Equally, this newspaper was wrong to characterise President Bashar al-Assad/Vladimir Putin’s military assault as a “liberation.” Faced with brutal horrors, the West — both the left and the right — reaches too quickly for military solutions.

Jeremy Corbyn is right to continue to reject military intervention, and to call for “humanitarian assistance to Aleppo and other besieged areas and serious pressure to negotiate ceasefires across the conflict zones [...] the UK, as a member of the United Nations security council, should bolster and affirm the UN as the primary avenue for international efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Syria.”

Corbyn has repeatedly and correctly condemned Russia’s involvement in Syria and its actions in Aleppo, as have shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith.

The analogy has been made with Guernica. As with all historical analogies, it’s only partly correct. As with Guernica, Aleppo’s civilians have been subjected to brutal military air strikes. However, the political context is different. In 1937, socialists had no difficulty defending — including militarily — the elected Republican government from Franco’s fascist military rebellion. They did so as individuals or through the labour movement, not by calling on the British government to intervene.

In Syria, what began in 2011 as a political revolution against a dictator has collapsed into a multilateral conflict involving many military forces, most of which — Isis, al-Qaida, etc — are guilty of the most appalling crimes, including kidnapping, arbitrary executions and rape.
Assad’s crimes are also well-known: a dictator with a record of torture and arbitrary detentions in secret prisons is raining down hell from the sky, with hospitals, residential areas and schools all bombed.

As government forces entered the city, the UN reported that civilians, including women and children, were summarily executed — collective punishment for the actions of the fighters.

Both sides are guilty of horrific war crimes. Rather than take sides, surely the answer is to condemn all human rights abuses and all military action against civilians?

What should and what should not be done? Military intervention causes more harm than it is intended to prevent. In 2013, the Labour Party was completely correct to oppose British military intervention in Syria. The Tories, and shamefully some Labour MPs, now blame the current tragedy on that vote. Ben Bradshaw said: “In August 2013, after the international outrage at his use of chemical weapons, we had the chance, but we blew it.” John Woodcock MP agreed.

It’s nauseating watching Boris Johnson and others talk about their concern for civilians in Aleppo. They don’t show the same concern for civilians in Yemen, murdered by US drones and Saudi military forces — armed by Britain — nor for the deaths in Iraq, over 13 years after the invasion. The city of Mosul is seeing dozens of civilian fatalities every week, the result of aerial bombardment, which British MPs backed a year ago.

Humanitarian aid, through air drops, might be right, but only if it has been negotiated. Unilateral action, without agreement of the local or international combatants, could simply escalate the conflict.

Realistically, Britain can do four things: political pressure, humanitarian aid as soon as there is a ceasefire, a welcoming approach to refugees and taking action against the arms trade. Sadly, the Tories and some Labour MPs would much rather bomb than provide assistance for refugees, or stop selling arms.
Political pressure must continue, especially against the executions of civilians. The government should offer humanitarian aid — food, shelter and medical assistance. This should include, once people are safe, fed and sheltered, taking testimony so that war crimes are documented and perpetrators can be held accountable.

The government should welcome Syrian refugees — far cheaper than military engagement. The Dubs amendment was a humane response but by mid-November only 330 children from Calais had been received. The government has failed to meet the inadequate quota of 3,000 children and spent its energy contesting its international obligations.

More than five million Syrians have been displaced since 2011. Thousands are stranded in France, Greece, Italy and elsewhere, where all European governments, including the British, are trying to avoid granting them asylum. The government should allow asylum claims from those refugee camps, recognising that most Syrian refugees are in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Those who prefer to stay close to Syria, so that they can return home quickly when it’s safe, should be supported too.

Finally, we need national and international action on arms sales. The British government could ban, overnight, the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Libya and Iraq. It could lead an international non-proliferation process, seeking to reduce economic dependence on arms manufacturing, to increase the types of arms that are banned under international law and to reach agreement on the gradual decommissioning of the arms industry. If we can change our habits to beat climate change, can governments be persuaded to solve their problems by talking, rather than fighting?

This article originally appeared in the ‘Morning Star’.

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Momentum, Democracy, The Trade Unions and The Labour Party

22nd December 2016

By Maria Exall

This discussion document is an attempt to draw out the significant issues that have arisen in the debate within Momentum about its future orientation, decision making and policy making structures. The election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party is the biggest opportunity for making the case for socialism within British politics for a generation. We must make the most of this opportunity and that includes making the right decisions on the structure of Momentum.

Summary

• The purpose of Momentum should be to make Labour a political Party which represents the interests of the British working class, promoting socialist policies, and politically educating younger workers and activists.

• Momentum should campaign against racism, sexism and homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and prejudice against disabled people in society and argue for positive action in the Labour Party on equality.

• Momentum should work to build up representative and accountable decision making in CLP’s to Labour’s grassroots members through promoting General Committee structures and trade union links

• A delegate led democratic structure within Momentum is necessary so local groups and affiliated Unions are empowered and members are actively involved in collective decision making

• Momentum should encourage digital campaigning by the Labour Party but not that which undermines affiliated organisations, or is just ‘quick fix’ policy making. We have to argue and convince people of our politics.

• Momentum should support workers fighting back both industrially and politically against the inequalities and injustices of capitalism in Britain and throughout the world and ensure that the Labour Party supports this.


1.The purpose of Momentum

The differing views of the future structure of Momentum highlight contrasting understandings of its function within the Labour Party and, implicitly, the vision of the future of the Labour Party under its current leadership. We need to build a structure for Momentum that develops the Party’s political agenda so that we can win the support of working class people in Britain for a socialist future

Some see the purpose of Momentum as making the Labour Party a ‘social movement’, but this is a very unclear objective which means different things to different people. Instead we should aim to make Labour a 21st century political Party which represents the interests of the working class and promotes socialist policies. The representation of working class interests by a Parliamentary Party, and the support of the majority and diversity of working class voters for such a political Party are central for anyone who wishes to see socialism in Britain. We don’t just want a mass Party we want a mass Party of the working class and for the working class.

If Momentum wishes to promote the voice of working class people in the Labour Party and in Parliament it needs to work with (and help renew) the left in the organised working class, i.e.  in the Trade Unions. Momentum should prioritise developing Trade Union links. These links should not just be about funding, or ‘formal’ support, or adding hundreds of thousands of trade union members to the hinterland of digital campaigning. Momentum should support the greater democratisation of Union political structures and through this the involvement of grassroots trade union members in the Labour Party. It should build up and campaign to increase the Unions affiliated to Labour. It should defend the LP-TU link in the Labour Party’s structure and make it a focus for the development of greater working class membership, activists, and candidates for Parliament.

Momentum also has an important part to play in helping to enthuse young workers to join the Labour Party – and for young people to get active within trade unions. We can argue the case for a focus on trade unionism with young people who are inspired by the progressive social issues embraced by the leftward shift in the Labour Party. We can argue the case to young activists for political trade unionism that makes the link between the industrial and political struggles, a trade unionism that is part of a wider labour movement for changing society and the world.


2.Momentum and Equality

Momentum should develop the connections with working class community campaigns for equality (not just with communalist groups) and with liberation groups that work on the ground. Much work has been done for decades to challenge racism, sexism and homophobia in the Trade Union movement and in the Labour Party. More recently it has been recognised that we need much more work to challenge prejudice against people with disabilities and transphobia.

It is the case however that in the last year or so since the resurgence of the left in the Party inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, equality in political debate in general and, let us be honest, within the Labour Party itself, has gone backwards. A lot of Labour Party members left and right still don’t get why equality and diversity are important. In the long run we will make a stronger left case if we take equality seriously and don’t sacrifice equality principles for political expediency

Momentum should develop democratic liberation structures of its own to ensure the full diversity of working class is represented. It is not enough to have representatives on the National Committee when Momentum Women, BME, LGBT and Disabled members structures are currently underdeveloped.  Momentum liberation groups should campaign on key equality issues and promote these within the Labour Party. We should acknowledge that sexism, homophobia, anti semitism, racism, prejudice and discrimination against disabled people still exists in the labour movement and amongst the left.

We should encourage appropriate Labour Party structures of self organisation. We should build on the progressive Rule Change at this year’s Labour party Conference, sponsored by the affiliated Unions, that has set up a process for democratising Labour Party Women’s Conference. We should look to campaign for the same democratisation, of delegate democracy, motions from local Parties and national affiliates, for policy input into the NPF and to the Annual Labour party conference for LGBT Labour, BME Labour groups and Disabled Labour.


3. Building up representative democracy at local level in the Labour Party

A passive membership that never, or hardly ever, attends meetings or events where policy is made or decisions are made is liable to be subject to manipulation by those with more knowledge and control of key channels of communication. There is a danger that we may have a mass increase in membership but only mass involvement of a very superficial kind. It is not sufficient to have a left version of the Blairite dominance of the Party structures driven by the leadership that persisted for many years, which suppressed activist engagement on policy and political strategy.

a. Decision making in the Labour Party

All members meetings and ‘direct democracy’ are not adequate to achieve an empowerment of the Party membership on their own, and used as a shortcut can actually set back the development of proper accountable decision making processes and structures at local level. There are labour movement traditions which have contributed to the best of Labour Party structures than remain extremely relevant and pertinent to the current political situation.

Members currently directly participate in decision making for leader, deputy leader, NEC and some positions on the NPF, and (after initial processes) for local Mayors and MP’s. All other positions within the Party, nominations and, crucially, decisions on policy are made by activists attending meetings and selections. It is important to have the most appropriate democratic structure for the different kinds of decision making within a political Party.

There is a case for building up properly representative structures in CLPs so collective decisions made by local members can be taken forward in a coherent and accountable way.

b.The case for a GC structure

At present CLPs have the right to hold all members meetings, policy forums on particular topics (where people may be invited to participate who are not members) General Committees and Executive Committees. But the most appropriate place for decision making has to be the GC. This is because it is the structure where the whole of the Party membership is represented - by delegates with a mandate from Wards/Branches and delegates from affiliated organisations. This representation is on ECs too, but obviously GCs include more people. This is the involvement of activists at all levels and is how we can develop local Parties on the ground.

The problem is that previously in the years of Blairite dominance GCs were downgraded (in the name of OMOV!) and often CLPs just had all member meetings for outside speakers/discussions and ECs for decisions and organisation. I think Momentum activists should campaign for GCs to have a compulsory minimum number of meetings a year. Greater individual memberships in CLPs should be an incentive to develop this representative structure where it does not exist. GC meetings are the best opportunity for collective informed debate rather than rhetoric or grandstanding.

To take the example of my own CLP, our GC of a 100-150 delegates will make a better decision and involve more people (through the representation of ward and affiliated delegates) than the all members meetings which can have 400 or more. The number of people attending the combined Ward meetings (not to mention activists from affiliated organisations who will have their own decision making meetings) will exceed the numbers involved in all members meetings. Also a meeting of 400 individuals or so is a rally, and it is difficult to have detailed or developed debate with such large numbers in an evening meeting (a day Conference maybe more appropriate). Also such large rally style meetings, where people do not know others, lend themselves to grandstanding scenarios rather than debate. In areas outside of big urban conurbations a GC structure is more likely also to allow for a fair geographical representation.

Further, and this is crucial, representative democracy (i.e. electing delegates to act on your behalf and then holding them to account) is actually a good thing. With proper accountability it has much greater reach and validity than individual clickactivism and all members meetings.

c. Building up the trade union link

To develop CLPs as working class based local Parties with a reach into the electorate we must build up affiliations from local Union branches and encourage them to send delegates regularly. The regional TULO structures should support local Trade Union Liason officers who should be empowered to be proactive about maximising involvement of local Union branches with CLPs. There could be programmes of political education on policy topics and regionally based training for potential local Government or Parliamentary candidates. The way forward for developing the political structure of affiliated organisations should be a matter for them, but a CLP can (and the national LP for that matter) facilitate an interface and encourage more Union delegates. We should look to promote the idea of workplace branches.


4. Problems with ‘digital democracy’.

Digital communication should be used to distribute information about Momentum and Labour Party activities, campaigns and policies and encourage participation in Momentum and Labour Party meetings and events. In a very limited way digital communication is appropriate for feeding into policy development but it is not helpful for most policy and decision making at national and local level. The ability to express an opinion online is one thing – but having to deal with the challenges face to face of your opinion, or of your opinion being tested by actually going out to persuade people of your view (and that they should vote for it) - is quite another.

The widespread assumption that digital Conferences and digital decision and policy making is a good way to involve more and a wider diversity of people can be challenged for the following reasons

Empowering Regional Organisation and local groups; We want to set up a process that will encourage the development of local groups and regional co ordination. This means we need to have power in local groups not only nationally. It also implies a delegate based democratic structure where change happens from the bottom up. 

Trade Union involvement with Momentum; You cannot have a meaningful affiliate structure if decision making happens solely through direct digital voting. It is not possible to respect the democracy of affiliated organisations and impose an OMOV form of digital democracy – the Unions have their own structure of decision making. The representative democracy in affiliated organisations means that we have a link to potentially hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of working people not just the ones who join Momentum as individuals.

Educating activists, especially youth; There are hundreds of thousands of new members of the Party who have joined and will join Momentum. Only some of these will become activists but we should be developing and politically educating the ones that may. The best way to do this is for them to attend Momentum meetings, and Labour Party policy events and Conferences, and to go campaigning with and get to know other Momentum and Labour Party members. Then they can make informed decisions about local fellow comrades after knowing them, and about policies after discussion with others.

Digital voting infantilises policy debates; Plebiscites and referendums on policy are almost always a bad idea. They are just a snapshot of already existing views and do not allow for development through education including face to face discussion and debate.

Using social media networking is not more ‘democratic’; Indeed it can reinforce the existing power relations as much as main stream media. The same issues of ownership and control apply (to data ownership, to employment relations, to accountability for content etc).

Digital voting can lead to superficial engagement; The ability to network on line becomes key rather than what people stand for and what work they are prepared to do with others. Also digital engagement is not necessarily more inclusive.  Many people do not have effective access to digital comms, a few through lack of internet access, many more through lack of ability to use comms effectively and even more just lack of time/articulacy/information.

We need an annual Conference of Momentum where decision making at this Conference should be based on representation from local groups and affiliates, and that means delegates. Smaller elected bodies (a National Committee and a Steering/Executive Committee probably) should be given the mandate by the Conference to run the organisation. You cannot respond as an organisation in any significant way to contemporary political events without some democratic structure at the centre.

Momentum at present has representation on its NC and SC from already existing left labour organisations that (imperfectly for sure) do represent policies and positions that have been adopted after debate and decision (LRC, CLPD etc). Any future structure has to take this into account in some way.


5. Some cultural/structural criticisms

We want Labour to campaign on issues which draws sharp class lines rather than just promote an ‘alternative’ vision of society which we expect individuals ‘in the know’ to understand. We need to popularise basic messages about a policies such as the case for public ownership and control of sectors of the economy, defending public services and extending rights at work and challenging the deep injustice of capitalist society. We need to pick important and relevant issues that unite working class people and challenge so called economic orthodoxy.

The point is to win mass support for our objectives. That is why we need Momentum to be a political faction which promotes political debate that is grounded in the interests of the working class rather than just promoting a ‘social movement’ model. The social movement model of political involvement is often perceived as a participatory model of democracy with the implication this will necessarily undermine top down control and perceived elitism of political representatives. But who participates? and who controls? The demography of social movement campaign leaders can be as elitist (and some) as current Parliamentary representatives – and they are also subject to less accountability (ie are unelected).

The reality is that in a class society those who occupy the leadership and control structure of an organisation, make decisions on strategy and policy orientation, will predominately be those who already have privilege in our society, and an unelected structure certainly ensures that! The reality is ‘social movement’ media and camaigning models only exist because of significant funding and a workforce which is dependent on this funding. In a class based society those with more ‘privilege’ (time to be an activist, resources to support being an activist, and not least the confidence and the education which develops the perceived ‘skills’ to be an activist) will end up in control.

Through digital engagement machine politics now can be done remotely. The new careerists that result from this (actually very old) politics may be left(ish), as the times are, but are unreconstructed in their superior and elitist approach. A casual view of the two main groups that have come to the fore in Momentum centrally in its first phase of development - those working in ‘independent’ media, and political staffers- would bear out this critique.


6. We need a conception of 21st century collective organisation and action on which to base the ‘new politics’, not the myths of ‘post capitalism’

I will conclude with a more ideological outline of an explanation of the difference in positions on matters of democracy within Momentum and the left. The neo liberal consensus of the last (nearly) four decades has encouraged a belief in the power of individualism whilst at the same time capitalist economic development has led to more sophisticated interdependent social relations between producers and massively increased connectivity between consumers. This contradiction has to be understood for what it is. But some left commentators who should know better seem to be promoting a mystification on this vital matter. The working class are not living through ‘a moment of sublation’ as left commentator Paul Mason maintains, with ‘networked individuals’ being the new agents of change rather than the traditional proletariat. The economic development of the fourth industrial revolution, Mason and others say, is changing the nature of class relations and collectivism understood as class solidarity is on the way out. This is the myth that lies behind the failure of some in Momentum to take on board the need to develop a 21st century understanding of collective involvement of the actually existing working class, our interests and aspirations.

Subjectively the modern work experience is overwhelmingly this; greater stress, insecurity and meaninglessness. New technologies have been used to make work processes more efficient and relentless and also enhanced incredibly the ability to undertake surveillance of work activity –‘time and motion’ on an unbelievable scale. Objectively the development of the digital economy and the use of digital platforms have added to work intensification and have massively increased productivity pressures. We are working harder and (many of us) for less than 30 years ago. The developments in technology have also aided increasing differentiation within the working class with jobs becoming increasingly ‘lovely’ or ‘lousy’, with a lot more becoming lousy.

These changes in technology, and the new forms of work that result have not changed class relations and the alienation that results from this. Arguably they have sharpened aspects of the class struggle with the proletarianisation of the professions aided by sophisticated management techniques developed through the greater ability to instrumentalise performance at work.

The ‘fourth industrial revolution’ is just another stage in the massively increased inequality between owners of capital and those of us who sell our labour to capitalists, and has accentuated the differentiation in working class jobs that has taken place since the mid 1970’s.The ‘crisis’ in skill, autonomy and status that the expansion of the service sectors of the economy and new work processes we are experiencing is a remaking of the working class not its end. Work remains the focus of both exploitation and resistance.

There are two aspects of the myth of ‘postcapitalism’ that need to be directly challenged; firstly that we are destined for a workless future, and secondly that the digital revolution has changed the nature and centrality of work as the defining activity of capitalism, with the corollary that there is a knowledge based route out of capitalist exploitation.

Firstly then, the view that automation will lead to a workless future is not new. It was said in the 1950’s and has been repeated periodically since then. The exponential expansion of the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence is new (ish) but, notwithstanding all the interesting questions about the relationship of human and machine ‘intelligence’, the hype is not born out by practical effects. The case for a workless future has been used to justify the policy of a universal basic income which encourages working people to give up on the aspiration for a decent collective welfare system that would offer us protection outside of our working lives – i.e. proper social security - and progressive fiscal policies.

Secondly, the new forms of work processes developed by the use of digital technology actually have replicated and expanded some very old employment practices both by employers and workers. The vast majority those working to digital platforms without being employees (the ‘gig economy’) are actually already employed and are ‘moonlighting’. Self employment is not a new dynamic expanding area of the economy – for millions it is just low/ mediocre pay without any of the protections of a contract. There is a long tradition of ‘bogus’ self employment in the construction sector– the lump – and now because of weakness in union organisation in many other areas this employment model has been re-invigorated. In expanding areas of the economy from parcel delivery to social care ‘piece work’ is often the norm.

The experience of workers getting together in Deliveroo, Sports Direct, ASOS, Picturehouse and Hermes has shown that workers organisation and importantly a self conscious political trade unionism can deliver concessions from capitalism in 2016 in the new expanding areas of the economy. In these new areas, and in the already organised sectors where there is union recognition, we have to show that it pays to be organised and fight back industrially and politically. In the end we have to go back to these basics if we are to go forward. Collective organisation from the bottom up, with the voice of those working at the sharp end directly inputting into the decisions that affect their daily working lives, and our right to call our workplace representatives properly to account, is fundamental. The political voice of Labour depends for its legitimacy on this.

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EU Scrooges Spoil Greeks’ Christmas

21st December 2016

EU Scrooges Spoil Greeks’ Christmas

By Mick Brooks

The Syriza government in Greece decided recently that they had a little money available to take the sharp edge off never-ending austerity. They decided to:
• Hand out €617m (less than 0.5% of Greek Gross Domestic Product or GDP) to I.6 million pensioners surviving on less than €800 per month.
• Relieve the Aegean islands from VAT. Apart from their remoteness, the eastern islands have borne a terrific burden of supporting thousands of refugees, without support from the EU.
• Promise a grand total of €11.5m on free school meals for poor children.

The European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the enforcer of Eurozone rules, stepped in with knuckledusters. They decided to cut off all debt relief to punish Greece for this insubordination.

How did the Greeks get the money? It wasn’t found down the back of a sofa. The Greek government is actually running a budget surplus, getting in more money than it spends. (By contrast the UK is running a state deficit of nearly £50 billion a year.) Unfortunately the surplus is not running down Greece’s monumental public debt, currently running at more than 175% of GDP. That is because so much of the money raised just seeps out of the country to pay the country’s creditors.

How did the Greek government get to run a surplus? The ESM has put the country on starvation rations, far worse than what we have experienced in the UK.  Greek GDP fell as sharply as did the US and German economies in the Great Depression of 1929-33. The social consequences have been catastrophic, such as mass unemployment and hospitals without medicines. The Financial Times commented in 26.01.15, “To service its debt burden would require Greece to operate as a quasi slave economy, running a primary surplus of 5% of GDP for years.” The ESM is determined to rub Greek noses in it.

The explosion of Greek debt was part of the mad boom in bank lending that led to the crash in 2008. The overriding need for the powers that be in the wake of the Great Recession was to rescue the banks which had triggered the world economic crisis in the first place.

Barry Eichengreen is an American economic historian, so he might be expected to be impartial on this. He points out that it was not the Greek people but the mainly French and German banks that were rescued in the ensuing bail-out.

“Someone, after all, had lent it all that money. In particular, German banks, led by the troubled Commerzbank, held some 17 billion Euros of Greek debt. The exposure of the German private sector, including pension funds, insurance companies and thrifty burghers searching for yield, came to as much as 25 billion Euros, a considerable fraction of what the Greek government owed. What was at stake, in other words, was not just the solvency of the Greek government but the stability of the German financial system.” (Hall of Mirrors)

Wolfgang Schauble, the German Finance Minister, opines, “Whatever role the markets have played in catalysing the sovereign debt crisis, it is an indisputable fact that excessive spending has led to unsustainable levels of debt and deficits that now threaten our economic welfare.” In this view the Euro crisis is a pure sovereign debt crisis. The Greek government was spendthrift. The crisis is just a product of human frailty.

Brigitte Young disputes this. “It is one of the great misnomers to call the present Eurozone debt crisis a sovereign debt crisis. The reality is that the European sovereign debt crisis started when the debt of the private banking sector was transformed into public sector debt via bail-outs.” (The power of Ordoliberalism in the Eurozone crisis management)

Blythe and Newman support Young’s view and call Schauble’s opinion the “greatest swindle of modern times perpetrated on the European Public by their governments on behalf of their banks.” (Thanks to Germany it’s 2008 all over again)

What actually happened in the Greek bail-outs from 2010 was the transfer of the private banks’ debt to the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund).

The Syriza government was swept to power in 2015 on a wave of hatred against how Troika-imposed austerity had ruined the country. In July there was a referendum on bail-out conditions. 62% voted ‘Oxi’ (No). Then PM Tsipras and the majority of Syriza MPs capitulated to the Troika. Tsipras is trying to regain a tiny bit of his anti-austerity credentials with the proposed reforms, but has been ruthlessly slapped down by international finance capital.

LESSONS

Myth: The Greeks were and are a bunch of spendthrifts.
Fact: The banks threw money at them recklessly, as they were doing everywhere before the crash.

Myth: The Greeks have been bailed out by the financial authorities.
Fact:  The financial authorities have bailed out the banks – at the expense of the rest of us. The Greek people are still suffering the consequences.

Myth: Austerity is necessary when a country gets into debt.
Fact: Austerity doesn’t work. At present the Greeks see no way out for them.

Myth: The Troika is offering Greece debt relief.
Fact: Greece is a quasi slave economy in thrall to the Troika. The country’s debts are its chains.

It is clear the Greek debt is insupportable. Further payments are due next year. Moody’s credit rating service has already expressed its concern that Greece can’t pay. In Italy a banking crisis seems to be looming. In particular Banca Monti dei Paschi says it could run out of money in four months.

Capitalism is a failed system.

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Local government funding in crisis

19th December 2016

By Martin Wicks

Local Government is facing an unprecedented financial crisis resulting from the austerity programme and changes in the funding system. The allocations for funding for 2014-15 and 2015-16 were set on the basis of reductions in 2013-14 funding. The coalition government then abandoned the uprating of grants in line with an annual assessment of local needs. A new assessment is not due until 2020. Although councils will eventually be able to keep all their business rates this will be at the expense of declining government grant. By 2020 many authorities will receive no grant at all.

The loss of grant will have a greater impact on poorer towns. Rich towns have more expensive housing and hence more council tax income. Income will only rise if there is an increase in council tax and business rates. The Institute of Fiscal Studies explains that this system will result in “transfers from areas with poor growth prospects to those with good growth prospects”. Since local authorities do not have equal capacity to grow business rates or council tax, inequality of funding will grow.

What is Labour’s response to this unprecedented assault on local authorities? By and large Labour councils are implementing swingeing cuts. Nationally Labour has made no attempt to build a movement to resist the government offensive. Hence Labour authorities are left to their own devices, at best seeking to manoeuvre, at worst simply implementing the cuts without protest. The last Labour conference even changed the constitution to make opposition or abstention on setting a ‘legal budget’ a disciplinary offence.

In Durham a Labour council is proposing to issue redundancy notices aimed at forcing teaching assistants to sign up to new contracts which involve as much as a 23% cut in wages. In Nottingham a Labour Council is proposing to:

remove the top two pay points in every grade; » end weekend pay enhancements;
remove all contracted terms and conditions, such that benefits can be changed at the employer’s discretion without negotiation.
The council is writing to every employee asking them to sign up to the proposed terms individually. These are the actions of an anti-union employer. How can Labour build support among local government workers and supporters of public services if its councils are behaving in such a way? Labour does not have a strategy for addressing the crisis of local government. It’s not clear what it would do in office. If the current government policy is unchallenged then local services will be decimated in its remaining years in office.

The leadership has said it would borrow for capital projects. But if it supports a ‘balanced budget’ over a parliamentary term this means it will do nothing to address underfunding of local government current spending. It will in effect be accepting funding levels bequeathed by the Tories. There is, however, a way in which the financial crisis of local government can be addressed without strictly speaking “creating money”. Local authorities have £64,817 billion of debt held with the Treasury’s Public Works Loan Board.

If Labour wanted to carry out a radical measure which would address the chronic under-funding of local government they should cancel this debt. In 2015-16 councils paid £2.930 billion interest payments, and £2.131 billion repayment of the principal. If the debt was cancelled this would provide councils with an additional £5 billion spending capacity each year.

The loss to the Treasury of £5 billion a year is a modest sum for the national economy. The resulting extra spending would provide a significant economic stimulus based on socially useful activity, be it social care, building of council housing, or funding libraries.

If Labour is to provide a practical alternative it needs to combine the building of resistance to the government by trade unionists, service users, and local authorities, with a clear programme which will offer a fundamental break with austerity, and begin to mend the damage done. Cancellation of local government debt can form the bedrock of such a programme.

If Labour councils see no prospect of a change they will continue to implement socially disastrous cuts because they believe they have ‘no choice’. Labour cannot be ‘the anti-austerity party’ without challenging in practice the government’s assault on public services. It certainly should not leave in place a system which entrenches local and regional inequalities. It needs to commit to returning to a system which seeks to equalise services, basing funding on the actual economic and social conditions in each area - based on social needs rather than ‘incentives’.

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OPINION - Time for a 20 hour working week

16th December 2016

By Barry Ewart

Susan Watkins in a piece in the New Left Review (September/October 2016) makes the excellent point that capital seems to want everything for free.  If you think about it we pay our taxes for education and health and capital is presented with educated and healthy workers for free!  And it is mainly state-led public investment supported R&D that is delivered to capital for free (including the computer) and we even subsidise our employers by paying our own fares to work or in buying cars and paying for petrol to get there, so perhaps a left wing democratic socialist alternative should offer some things for free too such as free public transport (and another member at a branch meeting recently suggested we could have congestion charges to also help to pay for this?). 

But with what may be coming with driverless cars, robotics, driverless trains, trams, tube trains and possibly even ships steered by computers (and if Amazon gets its way the end of check out staff in supermarkets) I think it is time for the left to seriously consider 20 hour working weeks or so with good pay for all to free time poor working humanity.  Someone also suggested a while back that perhaps a whole new industry could be created (doing what perhaps human beings may be best at) as ‘empathy workers’ (professional friends) and this may address issues such as loneliness in society and could help re dementia and adult social care but this is dependent on working class/working people making new technology work for us instead of working people serving big business (it is the labour of the working billions which really creates the wealth and makes societies work).

At present we have a Tory Party (and Right in most countries) PRETENDING to rule for working people when in fact everything they do is for the rich and powerful.  It could be argued that the Tory Party here in the UK are setting citizens against citizens (neighbours against neighbours) to divide and rule!  They do this here concerning working class welfare whilst the more invisible upper class welfare state flourishes with tax cuts for: millionaires, corporations, private landlords with multiple properties, hedge funds (hedge funds gave the Tories £50m before the last election and the Tories and Lib Dems gave £145m of tax cuts to hedge funds)  tax relief for the rich on practically everything including public schools and of course increased tax relief for grouse moor owners (who some critics claim drain more of their land to make more profit and some claim this adds to flood water seeping down to the towns and villages below).

So our job is to put the political arguments and to articulate to working people what is really going on and to make the invisible rich visible as they are distant from most peoples’ lives.  We need to fight austerity which the Tories say will be here until at least 2021 and fight low pay with the IFS saying that wages are also likely to be static until then too!  And of course we need to fight for bread and butter issues like the NHS, poverty, adult social care, education etc.  We further need to fight for state-led public investment (which will also feed the private sector supply chain) and for more democratic public ownership with staff and communities having a say plus for serious taxes on the rich and corporations and it would also help if left wing democratic socialists were fighting for similar things in every country.. We also need to work with global partners to shut down the illicit offshore banking industry and some estimate perhaps over 50 trillion dollars is stashed there by the rich to avoid giving to the community and imagine the good we could do with this globally?  We could fund solar panel farms around the world and solar panels on the roofs of the poor to harness the free energy of the sun to help address climate change (and why not throw in free laptops so the poor through MOOCs - (free) massive open on-line courses can try to educate themselves out of poverty) etc.

So left wing democratic socialists here and globally need to offer diverse working class/working people hope and in the UK we also need to make May’s Masque of Pandora slip!

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Rail Dispute; what is Peter Wilkinson up to?

16th December 2016

Rail Dispute; what is Peter Wilkinson up to?

“Over the next three years we’re going to be having punch ups and we will see industrial action and I want your support,” Peter Wilkinson told residents in Croydon Town Hall last February, people who are also the hapless ‘customers’ of Southern Rail.

Wilkinson is paid £265,000 a year as the Managing Director of Passenger Services at the Department for Transport’s Rail Services. He explained he was up for a fight with railway staff – whatever it might cost other people in distress

“I’m furious about it and it has got to change - we have got to break them,” he said.“They have all borrowed money to buy cars and got credit cards. They can’t afford to spend too long on strike and I will push them into that place. They will have to decide if they want to give a good service or get the hell out of my industry.”

The point is that Southern Rail is not Peter Wilkinson’s industry. The railways were privatised in 1994 and Govia Thameslink Railway currently holds the franchise.
The government says it is not intervening in the present dispute. Wilkinson’s ill-judged outburst shows that is a lie. He has blown the gaff. The Department for Transport under the despised Chris Grayling is directly fomenting the dispute, and massively inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of passengers in the process. Wilkinson is paid more than a quarter of a million a year; his interpretation of ‘Passenger Services’ is to create disruption on the railways!

The government awarded the franchise to the incompetent shower Govia Thameslink Railway, and has resisted all attempts to take it out of their hands. No wonder the Daily Mirror’s headline earlier this week was ‘Renationalise our Railways NOW’.

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New Labour dissected

15th December 2016

New Labour dissected

Mike Phipps reviews New Labour: Was the Gain Worth the Continuing Pain?, by Dr Gaye Johnston, published on Kindle (ref: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LYD2JK2 ), by Edition Publishing.

This is an ambitious book. The late Michael Meacher MP in his Foreword hails it as “a systematic analysis of the biggest internal coup d’etat in the history of the Labour Party.” It “contains a wealth of hitherto unreported material of how this was achieved. The Blairite machine gathered and fostered its own panel of ultra-reliable potential candidates (often special advisers of existing MPs) and helped to train and prepare them for the day when winnable seats might become available, exactly as the Blairite ‘Progress’ faction continues to do within the party to this very day.”

And the legacy of this takeover remains. The leader may be Jeremy Corbyn, but the MPs, party officials, leaders in local government and many more remain the excrescence of a bygone era. Party employees especially have a long history of right-wing bias and working against left-wing candidates. A former Party Director of Communications openly boasted in 1998 of how he had worked to label the Grassroots Alliance slate for the NEC as “hard left”. Party staff are known to grade Conference delegates according to their loyalty to the leadership and harass delegates about how to vote. Staff themselves were pressurised to behave in a certain way by the increased use of short-term contracts.

Many of the powers of the NEC were delegated to hand-picked subcommittees in the New Labour era. Labyrinthine policy filtering mechanisms were introduced, undermining the sovereignty of Party Conference. Even a moderate Labour figure, Graham Stringer, declared: “The National Policy Forum is a charade. I don’t know anybody, including cabinet ministers, who doesn’t think that.”

|Parliamentary selections especially were skewed in favour of leadership-backed candidates. With the introduction of OMOV in the early 1990s, illicit use of Party members’ contact details and inappropriate use of postal ballots were the two main mechanisms to do this. But in last minute selections, the NEC cam impose a candidate, as it did with New Labour enthusiast Chris Leslie in Nottingham East in 2010. Systematic interference by Party officials is documented here in a number of detailed case studies and there is strong evidence of dossiers being compiled by officials on candidates deemed insufficiently loyal.

Even more centralised procedures were introduced for selections for devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales. Research found that 80% of Scottish and Welsh Party members sampled considered the process of selecting list candidates was “undemocratic and unfair”. “During the New Labour era there was unfairness and deceit originating from the Party hierarchy and staff,” concludes the author.

Democracy within the parliamentary party was shut down by New Labour. Press releases were sent out in the name of MPs, who had not seen them, welcoming policies the leadership had announced. Whips organised barracking of “disloyal” MPs at PLP meetings. Political differences were replaced by personality-based factions - “gangs”, as one MP termed them.


To say the membership were neglected during the New Labour years would be a major understatement. Between 1997 and 2010, individual membership fell 62% - down to 154,000 - and key unions left. This wasn’t simply the result of New Labour abandoning many of the historic values of the Party in favour of neoliberal economics and right-wing social policies. As John McDonnell points out, “New Labour had a ruthlessness that brooked no opposition – a brutality such as we’ve never seen before in the Party. They suppressed dissent and brutally discarded people, even some who supported New Labour but were no longer of any use to them.”

This mentality continued to infect the Party even after the departure of Blair and Brown from office. \When Ed Miliband, newly elected leader, went to greet the Party’s staff, he found they had all got home early in protest at his victory. New Labour supporters in his Shadow Cabinet pressed for - and won - a new method for electing the leader to replace the system which had elected him. Later they would turn on him for introducing - at their behest - the new method that would elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader - twice.

But the damage New Labour did to the Party was nothing compared to the state in which it left the country. Their capitulation to markets and indulgence of the City “led directly to the severity of the UK’s suffering during the world economic crisis,” Johnston argues.

This was not just down to a failure to regulate the banks. Public sector housing was curtailed - in 1999 just 84 council houses were built under New Labour - precisely to create an under-supply that drove up demand and allowed the private sector to cash in and the banks to capitalise on a credit boom.

A universal welfare state was undermined by creeping means testing. Trade union freedoms were not restored. Inequality rose, leaving a good half of the population effectively disenfranchised. “This, together with the Iraq war, will be New Labour’s legacy,” argued Michael Meacher. Worse, it left large swathes of the working class alienated from the very Party that was supposed to represent them.

The irony, for a leadership so committed to media management, is that where it did make significant improvements for working people, it often refused to trumpet its achievements for fear of alienating middle class voters. But here, for example in healthcare, public investment was often geared to the interests of the private sector, as with the private finance initiative and other forms of marketisation.

Previous Labour governments - Attlee’s particularly - achieved a lot more - under far less favourable economic conditions. The real problem for New Labour was a lack of political will to do so. Its complete unconcern with issues of inequality has contributed to escalating poverty and a fractured society.

Over fifty major ‘stakeholders’ in the Party were canvassed for their views in the assembling of this book. This included 27 backbench MPs and as many CLP secretaries, as well as some staff, union leaders, excluded parliamentary candidates and conference delegates. There’s some repetition, but the result is an unanswerable indictment of New Labour and an essential handbook for new activists.

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Vote for Len McCluskey!

14th December 2016

Vote for Len McCluskey!

The NEC of the LRC decided at its meeting on December 10th to support the re-election of Len McCluskey
as General Secretary of Unite the union and support the United Left slate within the union.

See for details

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Southern Rail Chaos

13th December 2016

Southern Rail Chaos

By Mick Brooks

There seems to be a competition among Tory cabinet ministers as to which one can be the most unpopular with the public. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is definitely in the running.

The current strike on Southern Rail is a classic case of his malign neglect. Grayling has been muttering about making strikes on the railways illegal. But even he has been forced to admit that the problems on Southern predate the present industrial dispute by a long chalk.

The fact is that the Tory award of the franchise to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has been a disaster from the outset. The longsuffering passengers in the area have been subjected to years of pathetic excuses, such as ‘no crews available’, and a reduced timetable to account for the failures of the franchise holders.

More than 33% of Southern’s trains are delayed compared with less than 15% in other regions.

Southern has trivialised the present dispute, arguing it is about whether drivers or guards should be responsible for closing the doors. In fact it is about passenger safety.

One solution to the mess created by Southern is to hand over suburban rail services to the London Mayor.  Sadiq Khan is sure he could do better than GTR. He could hardly do worse. His proposal is entirely logical, as all these train operating companies are basically funnelling commuters into London, so the service could be better integrated and planned overall.

In 2013 Grayling wrote a letter to the then London Mayor Boris Johnson, saying he opposed the proposal to keep it “out of the clutches of any future Labour Mayor”. Sadiq has replied mildly to this revelation, pointing out that the welfare of passengers is “far, far more important than playing party politics.” Even Tory MP Bob Neill, under pressure from his constituents, has called for Grayling’s resignation, calling him “unfit for office.”

With regard to the present dispute, Aslef official Graham Morris told the Press Association: “Southern is deliberately sabotaging the service to strengthen its argument in court on Monday by suggesting that Aslef is responsible for the cancellations. “Drivers and other crew were sitting around in Eastbourne this morning available to work.”

Aslef named the cancellation times, and added: “There is a crew room full of frustrated drivers and guards who are puzzled as to why the company would create this disruption and blame it on us,”

Grayling’s latest brainwave is to break up Network Rail’s tracks and award them to the train operating companies, in effect privatising the system. A history lesson may be in order here. When the Tories began the privatisation of British Rail in 1994, they split it up into train operating companies and a private company called Railtrack.

Anxious to maximise profits, Railtrack allowed British Rail’s engineering expertise to dissipate. One result was a series of fatal crashes: Southall in 1997; Ladbroke Grove in 1999; Hatfield in 2000; Potters Bar in 2002. Thank you very much, John Major, Tory Prime Minister responsible for the privatisation!
Added to these accidents were catastrophic cost overruns on upgrading the West Coast Main Line route. Together this meant that Railtrack was forced into liquidation and Network Rail took over its functions. It is in effect publicly owned.

The idea of handing over Network Rail’s functions to the likes of GTR is almost laughable. Even the ‘Sun’ has argued today (December 13th) that GTR should be stripped of its franchise altogether. We pay these people to screw up.

How much has all this cost us? Action for Rail reports:  “In 2013–14, the government contributed £3.8bn to the UK rail industry.

The top five recipients of public subsidy alone received almost £3bn in taxpayer support between 2007 and 2011. This allowed them to make operating profits of £504m – over 90 per cent (£466m) of which was paid to shareholders.”

(http://actionforrail.org/the-four-big-myths-of-uk-rail-privatisation/)

The case for the renationalisation of the railways is overwhelming.

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LRC STATEMENT ON MOMENTUM

13th December 2016

LRC STATEMENT ON MOMENTUM

There can be little doubt that recent days have been damaging to Momentum’s reputation. Divisive rhetoric and personalised attacks - from whatever source - can only play into the hands of our opponents, and undermine our credibility. Any camp pursuing witch-hunts, vendettas or using the language of witch hunts against individuals will only do further damage, and put the organisation’s future in jeopardy.

We should remember how much we share in common. Whoever we are, and whether we are young people attracted by the promise of the “new politics” or long-standing socialists wanting to transform and democratise the Labour party, we share the same basic commitment to building an effective, united movement campaigning positively for the election of a Corbyn-led Labour government.

Sadly, some of our structures have become unnecessarily polarised and confrontational in a way that has allowed certain options to appear as mutually exclusive, when dialogue and good-will could have resolved the issues to the satisfaction of most concerned. It is not too late to build bridges - indeed, it is critical that we do, but it will require a spirit of thoughtful self-reflection, flexibility and willingness to listen to alternative points of view.

We are not dogmatic about the balance between delegate representation and all-member consultation. But grassroots members are not simply there to be “mobilised” from the centre like a stage-army, they must be empowered to play a full part in the movement and to have a real say in the future development of the organisation.

We want to build a mass movement which is rooted in communities across the country, and which builds support for a radical transformation of society. This requires effective central co-ordination, accountable to the membership via structures which allow for collective decision making. Let’s get back round the table and figure out how to take Momentum forward to elect the Labour government this country so badly needs.

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Lessons of Richmond Park

12th December 2016

Lessons of Richmond Park

By Mike Phipps

What can be read into the by-election result at Richmond Park? A 23,000 Conservative majority has been turned into a narrow win for the Lib Dems and a lost deposit for Labour. One blogger drew the comforting conclusion that this was down to the anti-Corbyn characteristics of the Labour candidate.  Well, maybe.
In reality, this was obviously a contest more about Brexit than anything else. Constituents in this area voted by 70% in the referendum to Remain in the EU. Since then, the Lib Dems have championed the minority Remainers, a plausible option for a minority party, promising a fresh referendum. It is far more difficult for Labour to offer this and stand a credible chance of winning the next general election - but the Lib Dems have no serious ambitions to do this.

Labour’s poor result could be partly attributed to a high degree of tactical voting. The long, unnecessary, bruising leadership contest has dented Labour’s lead in the polls as well. There also remains a lack of clarity in the public mind over what precisely Labour’s position is. The leadership favours a soft Brexit, guaranteeing access to the single market and the free movement of labour. Others orbit around this, some still clearly advocating Remain, others talking up the benefits of Brexit.

If Richmond Park is typical of the rest of the country, Labour could be in trouble. What if - and it’s a big if - the EU referendum really has transformed the political landscape and elections now are going to be decided less on class and other traditional identifiers and much more on where people stand on the issue of Europe? With Theresa May’s government under internal and external pressure to proceed quickly to a hard Brexit, and the Lib Dems committed to Remain, there is a real danger of Labour being squeezed out, given its more subtle embrace of withdrawal while preserving the most economically useful features of the EU. After all, isn’t a soft Brexiteer really just someone who would prefer to Remain? And if you really want a soft Brexit, wouldn’t you be more likely to vote for a party committed to Remain, on the grounds that this will put more pressure on a Conservative government leaning towards a hard Brexit? And while Labour as a party seeking to win a governmental majority can’t be seen to frontally oppose the majority of the electorate on Brexit, this is not something that affects the positions taken by ordinary voters.

Fortunately,  these hypotheses may be premature. Firstly, Richmond Park is not a typical constituency, if such a thing exists. It’s wealthy, privileged suburban and southern - economically rightwing, if more socially liberal - classic Remain territory. Secondly, it would be simplistic to generalise from one result that all electoral politics in the UK must now be viewed through the prism of the EU referendum result. Thirdly, the willingness of the broader electorate to forget the Lib Dems’ support for Tory policies through five years of coalition government should not be assumed as a given. Compass and others may be rushing to include the Lib Dems in a “progressive alliance” but voters may be a bit more circumspect about this sudden reinvention.

Labour will have to hold its nerve. In one council by-election on Thursday, Labour convincingly beat UKIP and the Tories in Crewe in a three-way battle. If the Party is to see off the rightwing threat in traditional Labour heartlands, it must continue the patient work of reframing the conversation in terms of what kind of Brexit best meets the interests of working class people.

This is not such a complex message as some might think. John Prescott, writing in the Mirror after the result, said: “What Labour must do is own Brexit and spell out a vision that’s not only about getting the best deal from Europe – it’s about how we REALLY let the people take control.” He went on to explain how the opportunity of Brexit could be used to recast society in a fairer way: “Our net contribution to Europe is about £12 billion a year. People shouldn’t stop with taking back control from Brussels bureaucrats. They should demand the reclaimed money and powers aren’t left with Westminster’s faceless mandarins and out-of-touch southern ¬politicians. They should be pushed back to the people so they can spend the money and use the powers closer to home. And I’d replace the House of Lords with a Senate for the Nations and Regions that better reflects the makeup of the UK.”

The idea of using Brexit to reconfigure our constitution is a radical one that Labour should seize with both hands. After all, many Brexiteers keep repeating that the referendum was all about sovereignty, that is, where power lies. So let’s join that conversation.

One further thing can be gleaned from Richmond Park. The scale of the Lib Dem victory suggests that some of the Tories’ safest seats would be at risk as long as the EU issue remains dominant. That means that a snap general election in 2017 now looks a lot less likely than a few weeks ago.

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Tories’ record on disability: a damning indictment

11th December 2016

Ellen Clifford
Disabled People Against Cuts

ON 7TH NOVEMBER the UN published a long-awaited report from an inquiry last year under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It was triggered by complaints from disabled campaigners and lengthy submissions from the Disabled People Against Cuts research team, led by our late co-founder Debbie Jolly. The findings conclude that there is reliable evidence of grave or systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the UK government due to welfare reform. It is the first time a state has ever been investigated in this way and the findings are a damning indictment, although they come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the attacks waged by the Tories since 2010 on disabled people and the poorest members of society.

The Tories are clearly nervous of their record on disability. They chose to trail their 2016 party conference with the announcement that some people with unchanging lifelong conditions will no longer need to be continually reassessed for work capability. The DWP evidently had a very careful media strategy for the launch of the Green Paper, Improving Lives, in the first week of November. They broke their own embargo on their pre-launch announcement in order to keep control of coverage and ensure the impact of the UN report was limited. The report went live on the UN website at 4pm the day before the US presidential elections, too late for that day’s news cycle but making it old news by the Tuesday. The campaigners who triggered the inquiry never saw a copy of the report or the government’s response prior to publication, yet it was leaked to the Daily Mail who ran a piece aiming to discredit the report’s authors.

There is good reason for the nervousness, with disability issues having gained an unprecedented political profile at the start of 2016.

The House of Lords embarrassed the government by repeatedly voting against the Welfare Reform and Work bill in January and February;
damage was sustained to Osborne’s reputation as he was forced to do a U-turn on cuts to Personal Independent Payments (PIP) announced in the March budget;
Zac Goldmith’s defeat in the London mayoral elections followed a name and shame campaign against MPs like him who had voted in favour of the cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA);
and when Iain Duncan Smith resigned in March, surreally posing as a champion of disabled people against cuts he said were going too far, it was clear that disability was an area where the Tories were feeling weak.
Theresa May’s government appears to be working hard at avoiding public criticism but in reality the reforms they are offering are extremely limited while the situation on the ground is growing unimaginably worse.

We still have in place the Work Capability Assessment, the bedroom tax, the Access to Work cap and a punitive sanctions regime;
growing numbers of disabled people are being found ineligible for PIP and having their motability cars taken away;
from 1st April 2017 ESA for those in the Work Related Activity Group will be cut by nearly £30 a week;
the lowering of the benefit cap and introduction of Universal Credit will see hundreds of thousands of households with disabled members worse off;
and the crisis in social care is set to get even worse with the next rounds of budget cuts.
The Green Paper fails to present any proposals that will effectively support more deaf and disabled people into employment, while increasing conditionality, suggesting that all claimants of ESA with the highest support needs could be told to stay in regular touch with their local jobcentre or risk having their benefits sanctioned.

Underpinning the proposals is the idea that work is good for you and that everyone, regardless of their impairments and the barriers they face, must be pushed into employment activity as an overriding priority. There is no recognition of the negative impacts of unsuitable employment or of the potential ineffectiveness or even harmfulness of the mandatory short-term therapeutic interventions into which job centre advisors are to be encouraged to push claimants with mental health support needs.

It is a dismal and depressing picture but we must take hope and battle on. We must continue to expose what is happening and fight for an alternative to the brutal austerity measures offered by the Tories.

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The Threat of Right Wing Populism

6th December 2016

The Threat of Right Wing Populism

Jeremy Corbyn spoke to the Party of European Socialists Council in Prague yesterday, here is the full text of the speech.

Colleagues and comrades, I want to thank you for inviting me here today, and for the reception we have received from our hosts in this magnificent city.
It is fitting we are in Prague to discuss the challenges ahead for democracy in Europe.

This is a city which has been at the heart of the history of our continent and the convulsions of the past century – of war, revolution and the struggle for democracy and social justice.

We are in a city that also suffered the scourge of Nazi occupation and the horror of its genocidal crimes.

Today I will also be visiting the Terezin memorial which commemorates the victims of Nazi political and racial persecution in the Czech Republic, a permanent testimony to the threat posed by far right politics, antisemitism and racist scapegoating.

On behalf of the British Labour party I will be paying tribute and remembering those who died, whose suffering is a reminder of the scars left by the far right, not just on this country or this continent, but on the whole world.

Today, we live in a different time with different pressures and opportunities.

But it is clear, across Europe and beyond there has been an alarming acceleration in the rise of the populist right.

Whether it be UKIP in Britain, Donald Trump in the United States, Jobbik in Hungary or Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France.

Politics has been shaken across the world and, as socialists and progressives, we know very well why the populist right is gaining ground. But we are finding it increasingly hard to get our message heard and it is up to us to offer the political leadership needed for a real alternative.

We know the gap between rich and poor is widening. We know living standards are stagnating or falling and insecurity is growing.

We know that many people feel left behind by the forces unleashed by globalisation – powerless in the face of deregulated corporate power.

Often the populist right do identify the right problems but their solutions are the toxic dead ends of the past, seeking to divert it with rhetoric designed to divide and blame.

They are political parasites, feeding on people’s concerns and worsening conditions, blaming the most vulnerable for society’s ills instead of offering a way to take back real control of our lives from powerful elites who serve their own interests.

But unless progressive parties and movements break with that failed economic and political establishment it is the siren voices of the populist far right that will fill the gap

It can be difficult to convince the long-term unemployed that the reason there is no work is not that immigrants are stealing their jobs but the result of the economic programme of the right that has failed to deliver sustainable growth, security and rising living standards for all.

Or it can be hard to make clear that our public services are being run down because of years of austerity and predatory privatisation, rather than overspending and government waste, but it is vital that we do.

We cannot abandon our socialist principles because we are told this is the only way to win power. That is nonsense.

The reason we are losing ground to the right today is because the message of what socialism is and what it can achieve in people’s daily lives has been steadily diluted.

Many people no longer understand what we stand for.

Too often in recent years the left in Europe has been seen as apologists for a broken system rather than the answer to how to deliver radical social and economic reform for the 21st century.

Too often the left has been seen as the accomplice to reckless, unfettered capitalism rather than a challenge to it.

Too often the left has been seen as standing up for the privileged few rather than for the many we exist to represent and defend.

If we are only seen as protectors of the status quo how can we expect people to turn to us when they can see that status quo has failed?

We must stand for real change, and a break with the failed elite politics and economics of the past.

If we do, I have every confidence that the principles of solidarity, internationalism and socialism that we stand for can be at the heart of European politics in the 21st century.

That’s why it is vital that our rhetoric cannot be used to legitimise the scapegoating of refugees or migrant workers.

When we talk about refugees we need to talk about them as human beings, not as numbers, or as a burden, but instead as children, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters.

And when we face the challenge of migration we need to work together to halt the exploitation of migrant labour to undercut pay and conditions in a race to the bottom across Europe. We cannot allow the parties of the right to sow divisions and fan the flames of fear.

When it comes to Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Union we in the Labour party respect that decision, and we want to work together with Socialist and progressive parties across Europe to find the best possible solution that benefits both Britain and the EU in the Brexit negotiations.

Labour is calling on the British Government to guarantee the rights of all EU Citizens before Article 50 negotiations begin, and not to use them as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

Labour is pushing for Brexit negotiations to be carried out in a transparent manner, in a spirit that aims to find a deal that works for all across our the continent.
That is why I am inviting leaders from socialist and progressive parties and movements across Europe to a special conference in London in February.

I believe our movement has the new ideas to take on and beat the populist right.. But we must harvest those ideas and that energy, allow a space within our parties for new ideas to be heard and build a movement with a democratic culture at its very heart.

It is when people lose faith in the power of politics to improve people’s lives that the space opens up for the far right to scapegoat and blame. Our task is harder, to restore people’s confidence that we have both the vision and an understanding of the lives of those we represent to change them for the better.

As we head towards 2017 many people are worried about the direction that Europe is taking. Well now is time for us to turn the tide. To put the interests of working people front and centre stage and to fight for our values, of social justice, solidarity, equality and internationalism.

If we do that together, and break with the failed politics of the past, I am confident we can overcome the challenge from the populist right.

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Whither Momentum?

5th December 2016

Whither Momentum?

By Pete Firmin

Early in November the Momentum Steering Committee (SC) issued a statement, “The SC recognises and regrets the discontent and frustration felt by Momentum members in recent days… The Committee recognises the need for a greater level of accountability and transparency”.

This welcome statement represented a step back from a situation which looked as if it could lead to an implosion in Momentum.

At a SC meeting on Friday 28th October, called at less than 24 hours’ notice, a majority voted that the scheduled National Committee (NC) meeting would not take place the following weekend, and that the Momentum conference, due to take place in February 2017, would take decisions by One Member One Vote (OMOV).

Whatever your views on OMOV versus delegate democracy, this was remarkable. Papers had been circulated with different views on how conference should be conducted. These were being discussed by Momentum groups and due to go to the NC for decision. And yet an email was sent out to all Momentum members early on the Saturday morning, announcing that OMOV had won the day!

There was uproar. Addressing the LRC conference on the Saturday, Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, was highly critical. Momentum regional committees meeting that weekend in London, the South East, Eastern and North East regions echoed this. Wrack and ‘dissident’ members of the SC put out a measured statement calling for an open meeting of NC members for 5th November (the date cancelled by the SC).

Thankfully, the SC majority blinked. As well as recognising the resentment they had provoked, they reinstated the NC for 3rd December, though a problem remains – they still recommend that a delegate conference should be followed by an OMOV referendum of members, something which could lead to all kinds of problems. Such decisions should be a matter for the NC. The informal meeting of NC reps on the 5th November, exchanged useful ideas around how Momentum’s functioning could be improved, ‘ownership’ of Momentum and management of resources.

This crisis highlights a democratic deficit, the most extreme and public example of a culture of over-control, lack of accountability, lack of due process, tokenism and preferential treatment. There has been a lack of clarity around Momentum with decisions being too often taken by the unelected and ‘powerbrokers’. The result too often was a lack of direction, heavyhanded control and knee-jerk responses.

With Corbyn winning the leadership a major battle was on to wrest policy, campaigns and control from the Party machine, PLP and an entrenched right wing. Yet Momentum has appeared reluctant to take this on, barely spelling it out to supporters, many of whom are new to political activity and assume that electing Jeremy is ‘job done’.

This weakness was shown by the right dominating CLP delegates at this year’s Labour Conference - and at the London regional conference on 12th November.
Without a campaign encouraging members to get involved in the structures of the Party, the right will imprison Jeremy in a right wing machine. As I write, Momentum has sent out an email announcing such a campaign.

Hurrah, this is just what has been needed! Where were the model resolutions on issues like Trident, encouraging supporters to get Momentum sponsored motions adopted by CLPs for Conference? Where is the campaign against suspensions? The successes, like getting centre left candidates elected to the NEC, show what is possible. Many Momentum public statements leave supporters wondering ‘who decided that was our policy’, creating confusion on issues like parliamentary selection. Momentum seems focused on its own campaigns, rather than arguing for the Party to adopt them, playing into the hands of the right. And in the unions, without alienating supportive union leaders, we need a drive to take support for Corbyn’s policies deeper into the unions and workplaces. We cannot rely solely on support from the top.

‘The World Transformed’, the series of meetings hosted by Momentum in Liverpool was excellent. Well attended, lively debates took place, but interaction with Labour’s conference down the road was too little. Where was the Momentum leaflet to those attending conference, rather than this being left to others?
None of this means Momentum should be simply a caucus for organising in the Party. Rather, it should be active in campaigns around defence of the NHS, education, free movement etc. But these campaigns should not be divorced from activity aimed at transforming the Labour Party. To transform the world, we need public campaigns around important issues, linked to that fight to make the Labour Party fit for purpose. One without the other will fail. Where, for instance, there is a local campaign to defend the NHS, Momentum supporters should be encouraged to participate and to get Labour Parties to affiliate. Only where no campaign exists and the Party can’t be persuaded to set up one, should Momentum think of itself acting as the catalyst to initiate one
. We must ensure Momentum is made fit for purpose before, as well as at, its conference in February if we are to seize the opportunities opened up by Jeremy’s election.

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What kind of Momentum conference?

1st December 2016

What kind of Momentum conference?

Mike Phipps ponders the case for an OMOV structure

Momentum, the organisation created to advance Corbynista ideas within the labour movement and beyond, presents a tremendous opportunity to take socialist ideas to a far wider audience than has been possible for generations.

Yet a huge amount of energy appears to be focused, less on turning outward to engage this audience, than on turning inward to debate internal structures. Much of this debate is now centred on what kind of national conference Momentum needs. Discussion has quickly polarised between those who support a delegate-based conference, with attendees made up of delegates elected by local groups and affiliates, and those who favour One Member One Vote, with live streaming and online voting.

Personally, I want whatever makes the 20,000 members who have joined Momentum feel engaged and that their input is valued. I want these new supporters to become active in spreading the Corbyn agenda into parts of society where it has yet to reach. Of course there are difficulties with an OMOV conference. The questions put in online plebiscites may be selected in advance by the leadership and may not be open to amendment. The whole approach is contrary to the traditions of the labour movement and trade union affiliates in particular have reservations. We need a lot more information about how the new leftwing party in Spain, Podemos, used online techniques to construct their programme and engage their members.

But I don’t think the delegate model works ideally either. I’ve attended two London Regional Committees, made up of delegates from local groups. The first spent most of its time passing policy resolutions and spent less than 15 minutes on organising. The second started at 11am and finished at 4pm and didn’t complete its agenda, so had to be reconvened a couple of weeks later.

In theory, this London Regional Committee is composed of representatives from local groups. In practice, most of the people who have the appetite for a five hour meeting are highly committed activists, especially those from small left groups present in Momentum. These groups caucus beforehand and arrive with pre-prepared position papers on pretty much everything on the agenda, so debate polarises between different groups trying to win their line. Consensus becomes impossible. Ordinary members who want to build Momentum find this very frustrating.

Theoretically, the delegates who attend these meetings have a mandate from their local groups and are accountable to them. In practice, this is dubious. I wonder if the delegate who moved opposition to supporting a broad Stop the Purge conference, focused on the witch-hunt inside the Party and sponsored by Bakers Union President Ronnie Draper, on the grounds that it was a “Zionist front”(!) had a mandate for his outburst. One of the London Region Committee delegates, Jill Mountford, was pretty annoyed about this sectarian attack - and rightly - but in her blog she criticises Momentum founder Jon Lansman for suggesting that Regional Committees might be unrepresentative of the grassroots.

This is not an isolated example. A member from one locality presented a motion, apparently passed by her local group, only to be contradicted by a delegate from the same group, who said they’d never seen it. Another ‘delegate’ on the London Committee claims to represent a local group which hasn’t met since its members opposed the proposal that its officers be elected only every three years.

Delegate-based structures may work better in some organisations than others. Many Momentum members are not even involved in local groups. Rather than engaging the whole membership, a traditional delegate structure for Momentum may just be the best tactic for empowering hardcore activists, who champion face-to-face politics and dismiss OMOV as passive “clicktivism”. But as a recent blog from Hackney Momentum remarked, “Corbyn’s victory, and thus Momentum’s existence, are only possible because of OMOV in the Labour party.” Inclusion, it argues, is the key to transforming passivity into activity. “The ‘new politics‘ is about not delegating your responsibility to take part in and learn about politics,” it concludes.

Behind this organisational discussion, a battle for control of Momentum is being waged. While the traditional left may have a great deal of experience and historical knowledge to offer, it has not always been organisationally inclusive. Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the 2015 leadership contest was largely the result of new forms of organising, in which the online campaign was absolutely pivotal.

The left traditionally has been quite good at focusing on internal battles and polarising debate in ways that alienate large numbers of potential supporters. This time the stakes are higher than ever before. We have a huge responsibility not to alienate our potential supporters and undermine the entire Corbyn project. It will be no victory if the “correct” side wins in Momentum, but we fail to get Jeremy Corbyn elected to power.

From the December issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC

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Keith Henderson Appeal Successful!

30th November 2016

Keith Henderson Appeal Successful!

All legal costs have now been paid in full. Keith would like to take this time to thank everyone who donated to the appeal fund and give special thanks to John McDonnell and the LRC for all their support over the last five years.

Everyone who donated will be aware that in September 2013 the Watford Employment Tribunal made a Judgment that I had suffered unlawful direct discrimination by my employer, the GMB trade union, on the basis of my left wing democratic socialist beliefs. The GMB has successfully appealed against this decision, right up to the Court of Appeal, which meant I had to pay the GMB costs of £12,000.

The Court of Appeal was of the opinion that the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) Judge could make a substitute finding of fact without hearing any further evidence or referring the case back to the Watford Employment Tribunal to seek clarification on their Judgment.

My lawyers still believe this is wrong and the case should be referred back to the original Employment Tribunal Panel for clarification, but, it will cost too much money to pursue the case any further so I have had to accept this decision.

Looking on the bright side Socialism is now a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 as a result of this case. This is a permanent gain for the labour movement that has been won.

This case will go down in the history books as having made the law to show discrimination against someone on grounds of left wing socialist beliefs is a breach of the equalities legislation and is therefore unlawful, that in itself is very important.

Paragraph 62 of the EAT judgment, which still stands, states
” At paragraph 48 it concluded that I am a ‘left-wing democratic socialist’ and held the beliefs identified. Moreover it found that “there were clear outward signs of those beliefs being manifested… particularly clear from the picketing incident…” The Tribunal concluded that left-wing democratic socialism is a protected belief for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and this conclusion is not challenged on this appeal.”

Socialism is now a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
In addition it is the case that if it wasn’t for the efforts of all of you comrades in coming to my assistance in helping to raise the £12,000 necessary myself and my family would have been made homeless as a result of the relentless drive with no expense spared to discredit me.

Once again, many thanks to all the comrades who helped out.
We still achieved a historical victory in making socialism a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and that is what we should take from this legal battle. Every shop steward who is victimised in the workplace for representing their members should bear this in mind.

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Momentum debates Democratic Structures

26th November 2016

Momentum debates Democratic Structures

By Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and Chair of the LRC

The debate in Momentum about the organisation’s future structures hit the news recently and some journalists clearly enjoyed seeing a public disagreement blow up within the Corbyn-supporting movement. But we should not be afraid of debate. There are differences of opinion and these should be discussed at all levels of Momentum. In my view the key areas of disagreement relate to two issues. Firstly, what is the role of local Momentum groups - especially in their relations to the London-based office? Secondly, what type of Momentum conference should be held in February? Should it be a delegate-based conference or some sort of ‘online’ event?

One thing that has emerged is a level of distrust of local groups from some people - including people on the Momentum Steering Committee. On occasion Momentum members at local level have been referred to as ‘self-selecting activists’.

This approach results in opposition to a delegate type structure for any conference. We need to address these different aspects of the debate. What is the role of the activists? (Indeed, what is an activist?) And, secondly, what is the best way of organising an event (conference) to take the movement forward?

In defence of activism

One of the most famous stories from the US civil rights movement is of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. Her subsequent arrest led to the Montgomery bus boycott and was a key moment in the emergence of a new phase of mass struggle for equality, democracy and civil rights. Rosa Parks is now internationally seen as an outstanding and heroic figure.

The myth is that she was just a tired woman who wanted to return from work and that the demand she should give up her seat for a white person was simply the final straw which provoked an ‘ordinary’ woman to rebel and (perhaps accidentally) to help to create a new mass movement.

But, of course, the role of Rosa Parks in those events was not accidental. Parks was an activist. She came from a family of activists. Her husband had been involved in the campaign for the Scottsboro Boys (black teenagers falsely accused of rape). Rosa was member of the main civil rights organisation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She had attended the Highlander Folk School - which trained labour movement and civil rights activists. Even the tactic of refusing to move from a seat reserved for whites had been discussed and attempted before. Like the best campaigning tactics, it emerged from the real experience of those affected. The point is that no mass movement or campaign can be built without activists.

Activists are those who are not simply supportive of a cause but are prepared to put themselves out to discuss and organise for it. Every strike, every struggle of ordinary people, every gain made by the labour movement has required the involvement of activists. It is also often the case that activists are maligned and abused in their own time (as was Parks or King) only to be sanctified by those in power once their battle has been fought and won.

So we should not accept any denigration of activists, self-selecting or otherwise. The truth is that since activism is a voluntary function it must be, by definition, self selecting. The trade unions and the Labour Party rely on activists - as does Momentum - and we should not remotely apologise for that.

What type of conference?

The second aspect to the debate relates to the type of conference which Momentum should hold. The people who don’t like the role of activists (despite being activists themselves) have argued for an online or virtual conference. It is said that this reflects ‘new politics’ and a ‘new way of doing things’. My fear is that this approach might avoid one set of problems only to create another.

It is argued that the online approach would encourage wider participation. The truth is that it would create different problems. If everything is online, why would anyone even attend a conference? Who would therefore speak or make proposals? Simply a different group of self-selecting activists!

If voting is to simply be online who frames the questions? Anyone who has ever experienced a management ‘consultation’ of the workforce will know that these things are easily rigged and never inspire confidence in those consulted. Local authorities, NHS Trusts and a whole range of public bodies do the same thing. The question is set by those who control the process and is designed to produce the ‘right’ answer. As a result there is widespread public hostility and cynicism to such consultation processes.

Secondly, the online approach favours particular activists over others. Those who have an active social media profile or who have access to email lists and databases will have a significant advantage over those who may simply be campaigning at a local level, in a local CLP and local Momentum group.

So a key question is what are we trying to achieve? For me, if Momentum is to establish itself as a serious left wing campaign of Labour Party members and supporters, the starting point has to be local groups. It is at local level where we need to build the Labour Party, where we need to help people train and develop themselves. The local groups are certainly not perfect, and they don’t exist everywhere, but if Momentum is to develop and sustain itself for the long term the local groups need to be built and to be the basis of the campaign - the building blocks for the future.

With good will the difficulties and disagreements can be overcome and a way forward can be found. That can involve online discussion and decision making but it also needs to have representatives from local groups at the heart of the process and of the conference. Let’s find a way through.

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Brexit – where do we stand?

24th November 2016

Brexit – where do we stand?

By Mick Brooks

The referendum on leaving the European Union was not of our making. David Cameron proposed it in order to settle the internal warfare within the Tory Party.
Whether we voted to remain or to leave is now neither here nor there. Britain is now set to leave the EU on terms negotiated by the Tories, our class enemy. On the other hand Theresa May’s government is insecure, with a small majority in Parliament. It is clear they are clueless as to what will happen next.

What does the decision to leave mean? The problem with a referendum on such a broad issue is that different meanings can be read into the vote. The Tory government under Theresa May asserts that it shows that migration must be controlled more tightly. That was not on the ballot paper, but that is their agenda in any case.

We are entitled to know what the government’s priorities are before Article 50 is triggered. Article 50 of the European Treaties is the provision that begins the process of quitting the EU. The labour movement has a duty to insist on its own priorities and has the right to vote against the implementation of Article 50 if Brexit is used as an excuse to trash workers’ rights.

The High Court judgement opposing the government’s intention to push through the implementation of Article 50 without democratic consultation is correct, despite the hysteria of the Brexiteers. Their slogan was “taking back control”. It is therefore ironic that the terms of exit may remain a closed book to the British people. We don’t want to buy a pig in a poke! 

For May, exit is to be achieved by use of the royal prerogative rather than the will of Parliament. Parliament is an imperfect expression of the popular will, but it’s all we have. In effect May wants to assume dictatorial powers over the process of negotiation. She should be reminded that Charles I, who was excessively addicted to using the royal prerogative rather than Parliamentary approval, was cut down to size as a result.

The pamphlet produced by UNITE entitled ‘Brexit on Our Terms’ calls for, “no triggering of Article 50 until we see what exit from the EU will look like and what the alternatives are.” The union correctly argues that the UK government should negotiate a transitional trade agreement with the EU before triggering Article 50.
We need to open up a debate on the terms and the kind of exit that Britain will make. This represents an opportunity for Labour to defend its own people and expose the vulnerability of the Tory government at the same time.

Once Article 50 is triggered the British government will be plunged into fantastically complex negotiations to extricate Britain from the EU for at least two years over such stuff as phytosanitary certificates (certificates on the health of plants).

Britain has been a member of the EU for more than forty years. Almost half our trade is with our partners in the single market. What is to be done about the vast mass of EU regulation that has been incorporated into UK law since 1973?

Much of this legislation is to harmonise best practice within the single market; regulations to improve the energy efficiency of vacuum cleaners is one example. Other rules are intended to harmonise sales across the EU. Rules on electrical plug sockets and voltage are one of an infinite number of such regulations. EU rules have also dictated cleaner beaches in the UK. Do we really want to be swimming in sh*t? Is this what the Brexiteers meant by “taking back control”?

The consensus of informed opinion is that the UK can’t have unrestricted access to the single market after exit without allowing free movement of labour. Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are quite clear on this point. Free movement of labour is one of the four fundamental freedoms of the EU, along with free movement of goods, of capital and of establishment (the right to set up service provision anywhere in the EU).

• We stand four-square in defence of the UK’s need for unrestricted access to the single market. If that is lost, there is no doubt that jobs will disappear here.
• We also defend the right of workers to move wherever they think is best for them. Nobody is proposing restrictions on the power of capital to move where profit opportunities are best, whether inside or outside the EU. In that situation supporting restrictions on the movement of labour is equivalent to tying one arm behind workers’ backs in their negotiations with capital.
• The labour movement needs to draw clear red lines right away. Some workers’ employment rights as well as environmental and consumer protection laws are enshrined in EU legislation. They must not be magicked away in negotiations!

There is no doubt that a section of the Conservative Party and the ruling class have a ‘vision’ of Britain’s future outside the EU. It is one of a low wage, offshore tax haven where standards of all kinds – environmental and consumer standards as well as working conditions - are driven down to the bottom. This is not what we want. It is hardly credible in any case that a country of almost 65 million people can become an island sweatshop, a tax haven for international criminals and a safe house for oligarchic money.

As negotiations proceed, there will be a blizzard of legislation introduced into Parliament, usually smuggled in as statutory instruments rather than being openly debated in the House.  Jeremy Corbyn has appointed Keir Starmer as shadow minister for Brexit to keep a watchful eye on what the Tories are up to.
Two immediate questions will loom:

• The first is the future of 3 million EU citizens living in the UK. Theresa May has been accused of using the EU citizens here as ‘hostages’ in negotiations with the EU. Are they just to be thrown to the wolves, and issued with deportation orders after Brexit is accomplished?
• The fate of 1.2 million UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU is also in question. Many of these are elderly retirees who have been used to receiving health care in their host country in the same way that EU workers here can access the NHS. What will happen after Brexit? Will these mutual arrangements be torn up?

If Brexit proceeds, we have the opportunity to fight for reforms. The Common Agricultural Policy of the EU has been widely and accurately derided for its huge waste of money. Here we can make the case for a reform of agricultural subsidies. To take one example, wealthy landowners in the UK get subsidies from the CAP for the upkeep of grouse moors. Since a day’s shooting is likely to cost £3,000 these subsidies cannot be argued as necessary to provide affordable food for the poor. Grouse moors are ‘managed’ by burning off the heather. This is not environmentally friendly. Endangered birds of prey such as hen harriers are shot or poisoned by ghillies – all in order that aristocrats and their hangers-on can have their fun by slaughtering the grouse. One such parasitic laird is Paul Dacre, editor of the Eurosceptic Daily Mail. He has received £460,000 from the CAP since 2011. We suggest reform of such payments is overdue.

Likewise the Common Fisheries Policy has been blamed for overfishing and for obvious absurdities such as discard (throwing dead fish overboard because they’re the wrong sort of fish or because quotas have already been exceeded).There is no doubt that small fishing communities have been hard hit by the CFP. Jeremy Corbyn has exposed the real problem:
“The Prime Minister will be very well aware that reforms that were made three years ago actually put the power back into the hands of member states, and it is the UK Government who have given nearly two thirds of English and Welsh fishing quotas to three companies, thus excluding the small fishing communities along our coasts.” (Hansard)

Some have been calling for a second referendum. A broad ‘Yes-No’ response in a referendum to a complex interlocking set of issues can never provide a satisfactory political response – as we have seen. A second referendum is likely to raise as many questions as the first. In addition a demand for a second referendum will also inevitably be seen as an attempt to defy the express wishes of the people.

Only after the laborious negotiations following the implementation of Article 50 will the government be able to begin working out trade deals with the 197 other countries in the world. If Theresa May’s optimistic timetable is taken seriously, by 2019 the government will have nothing before it except a blank sheet of paper. Of course as negotiations proceed it is possible that the wheels could fall off the Brexit wagon. This is the Tories’ mess. Let them lie in it.

In or out of the EU the labour movement needs to present an alternative vision of Britain in the future.

This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC

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Trump, Trade Deals and the Working Class

16th November 2016

Trump, Trade Deals and the Working Class

Letter to Guardian 16th November 2016

A key lesson we need to draw from Donald Trump’s election is that toxic trade deals like the US-EU agreement TTIP are as unwanted in American society as in Europe. Trump cynically exploited public anger about these deals to win the US presidency. But we know, like Ukip here, that Trump is actually in favour of deregulation, privatisation and putting profit before people. His policies will not serve the interests of working-class communities, they will simply divide them and create the sorts of international tensions that, in previous times, sparked world wars.

TTIP was killed off by a movement of ordinary people who believe in an open, equal and democratic society where diversity is embraced and everyone’s rights are respected. We objected to TTIP because it would be bad for ordinary people and will hand power to big money – to businessmen like Donald Trump.

We know that politicians are now fearful of opposing deals like Ceta – the EU-Canada deal which is currently making its way through the European parliament. This is exactly the wrong lesson to pull from Trump’s election. To defeat the politics of racism and hatred represented by Trump and the far right in Europe, we call on politicians to support economic policies that will benefit the majority of people, eradicate poverty, create decent jobs and good public services and halt climate change. The first step politicians in Europe must take is to vote to stop Ceta in the coming weeks.

Nick Dearden Global Justice Now, Mark Dearn War on Want, Molly Scott CatoGreen party MEP, Dave Prentis Unison, Len McCluskey Unite, Kevin Courtney National Union of Teachers, Bert Schouwenburg GMB, Ruth Bergan Trade Justice Movement, Tim Flitcroft NoTTIP UK

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Stop the Violations – End Welfare ‘Reform’ NOW!

11th November 2016

Stop the Violations – End Welfare ‘Reform’ NOW!

Date: Wednesday 16th November,  Time: 5.30pm

Place: Gather at Old Palace Yard, Westminster
Join Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle to protest against the grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the UK government through welfare reform, as evidenced in the United Nations inquiry findings published this week.
The protest will also be in honour of DPAC co-founder Debbie Jolly who tragically passed away this week. Back in 2010 a small group of activists including Debbie and Linda started to campaign against the Work Capability Assessment.

At that time very few people other than those personally suffering as a result of the brutal assessment process had heard of the WCA or Atos. Debbie and others put up a tireless struggle for the past six years to expose what was happening and fight for justice.

Now ‘I Daniel Blake’ is in cinemas across the country and a UN inquiry, which Debbie put years’ of work into making happen, has found reliable evidence of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the UK government due to welfare reform.

However we still have welfare reform and things are worse now than they were when the UN conducted their enquiry and set to get even worse; we still have the WCA, the bedroom tax, changes to Access to Work and a social care support system in crisis but everyday more disabled people are losing essential income through PIP assessments, the benefit cap is about to be lowered and the introduction of Universal Credit will make thousands of households with disabled members worse off.
On Thursday MPs will debate the cut to Employment and Support Allowance which was voted through earlier this year in the Welfare Reform and Work bill.
We must act now to put an end to this conscious cruelty.
We ask that everyone who can come to Parliament on Wednesday joins us and those who can’t show their solidarity through social media with the hashtag #EndWelfareReform.

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Jeremy Corbyn on Trump’s Victory

9th November 2016

Jeremy Corbyn on Trump’s Victory

Many in Britain and elsewhere will be understandably shocked by Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, the rhetoric around it and what the election result means for the rest of the world, as well as America.

Trump’s election is an unmistakable rejection of a political establishment and an economic system that simply isn’t working for most people. It is one that has delivered escalating inequality and stagnating or falling living standards for the majority, both in the US and Britain

This is a rejection of a failed economic consensus and a governing elite that has been seen not to have listened. And the public anger that has propelled Donald Trump to office has been reflected in political upheavals across the world.

But some of Trump’s answers to the big questions facing America, and the divisive rhetoric around them, are clearly wrong.

I have no doubt, however, that the decency and common sense of the American people will prevail, and we send our solidarity to a nation of migrants, innovators and democrats.

After this latest global wake up call, the need for a real alternative to a failed economic and political system could not be clearer.

That alternative must be based on working together, social justice and economic renewal, rather than sowing fear and division. And the solutions we offer have to improve the lives of everyone, not pit one group of people against another.

Americans have made their choice. The urgent necessity is now for us all to work across continents to tackle our common global challenges: to secure peace, take action on climate change and deliver economic prosperity and justice.

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LRC Conference Report, 29th October 2016

7th November 2016

LRC Conference, 29th October

By Suzanne Gannon

On 29th October, the LRC held another successful annual conference, attended by 150 members.

The day was structured with keynote speakers introducing each section of resolutions. The resolutions and speakers, in turn, were grouped thematically. One section dealt with Equality issues, highlighting that equality has to be integrated with any struggle for socialism, with resolutions calling for the Labour Party manifesto to scrap the age discrimination in the National Minimum wage and another requesting a Labour government ends the Tory policy of appeals for deportees only after they’ve been deported.

In the Environmental issues section, a lengthy resolution called on a Labour government to publicly invest in the renewables sector, with another opposing the Gatwick and Heathrow airport expansions. In the section about Peace, one resolution called on Labour to be an internationalist party of peace and justice, and other one called on Labour to set up a Shadow Defence Diversification Agency.

In the Socialism strand, a resolution was passed demanding the repeal of the anti-union laws by a Labour government. A proposal for specific changes to be made to the Labour Party’s rule book to increase the number of CLP delegates on the NEC, and to challenge the rule change that allowed a Scottish and Welsh member to be appointed without election, was remitted to the LRC’s NEC for further consideration.

Motions were also passed on Momentum. The AGM recognised Momentum as “the main vehicle for pursuing the transformation of the Labour Party”. It also noted its democratic shortcomings, and in particular its failure to respond “rigorously enough to the purging of Party members during the recent leadership election campaign, and the weaponisation of the issue of antisemitism to attack Corbyn, including the capitulation to the demands to remove Jackie Walker as Vice Chair.”

The sessions were chaired very well, most proposals were succinctly introduced by their movers, and ample opportunities were given to members to comment on proposals from the floor. This part of the conference perhaps could have been executed a bit more deftly, as few of the resolutions were opposed. But discourse was comradely and remained on-topic.

The speakers all made strong contributions to the debate. Ronnie Draper’s (General Secretary of BFAWU) description of his suspension and subsequent readmission to the Labour Party was both humorous and tragic, as he emphasised how so many other members did not get the preferential treatment from the Compliance Unit that he got.

LRC’s President, John McDonnell, explained how the LRC was working to transform the Labour Party, with the aim of transforming our wider society. He also gave a signal that many, if not most, of the suspensions of members who had been purged during the leadership campaign, were likely to be lifted.

FBU General Secretary, Matt Wrack, gave a passionate opening talk, explaining from his perspective what the nature of the democratic deficit within Momentum was. Unfortunately, although Jon Lansman, Chair of Momentum’s Steering Committee, was scheduled to speak, he sent his apologies.

I very much appreciated the opportunity to meet up with so many like-minded people, and found the cross-over between LRC and Momentum membership refreshing. I’m sorry that I had to rush back to Yorkshire and thus missed the social that was held after the meeting ended.

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LP Democracy – bring it on!

6th November 2016

LP Democracy – bring it on!

Momentum Proposals on Democratising the Labour Party

Momentum members may have received an email seeking views in advance of the Labour Party NEC meeting on 22 November to discuss wide-ranging party reforms.

Here are some suggestions:
• Labour Party membership has tripled over the past year. There is a strong case for increasing the representation from the constituencies on the NEC. It should be remembered, though, that the trade unions created the Labour Party and their representation should be maintained.
• The Scottish and Welsh delegates should be elected at the Scottish and Welsh Conferences, not appointed by the leaders.
• Minutes of the NEC should be published.
• The votes of members of the NEC should also be published unless there are security issues.
• The broad principles of the Chakrabarti 2016 Report must be implemented.
• The Compliance Unit should be abolished.
• Iain McNicol should be sacked and the General Secretary made an elected post.

For more details on the membership purge and democratisation of the Labour Party, see:

Purge Suspension Letters

Thousands of letters have been sent out this week to suspended members advising them that their suspension has been lifted. Well, thank you very much, you might think. But hang on. These suspensions had the effect of (and were almost certainly intended to) deprive the Labour Party member of their right to vote.

So where’s the apology? There isn’t one. Members were wrongly suspended and deprived of their membership rights and apology comes there none. On the contrary members are warned in the letter that their (non-existent) sin will be kept on file. “We’re keeping a eye on you,” is the message. This is outrageous. Iain McNicol and the Compliance Unit are running amok

Ronnie Draper, General Secretary of the Bakers’ Union, reported to the LRC Conference how he was suspended. Who grassed him up? According to Ronnie it was an algorithm. (See the link at the end of this item.)

The witchfinders don’t know what they’re doing. They’re striking out blindly. Ronnie’s suspension was lifted. He was given special treatment, which he didn’t want. He wanted all suspended members to be treated fairly

On the one hand the suspension letters are an advance. McNicol and co. recognise that they haven’t got a leg to stand on when the appeals are heard. On the other hand they are still carrying on their purges which are fundamentally opposed to the basic principles of natural justice and due process (innocent until proven guilty and all that jazz).

They are holding an axe over the heads of thousands of members who haven’t done anything wrong. It is high time that the NEC installs a democratic procedure of investigating complaints and sacks McNicol and the rotten Compliance Unit.
For more details read:

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Brexit on Our Terms!

4th November 2016

Brexit on Our Terms!

By Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary of UNITE

THE BREXIT CRISIS will undoubtedly run and run. The Tories don’t have a clue how to handle the biggest ever peace time change in the UK – and amidst the political and legal wrangling, the voice of working people is straining to be heard. The referendum vote has to be accepted but that does not mean unions have to sit back and watch the decimation of UK jobs, industry and infrastructure.

That is why Unite launched a new document recently to make sure that the UK’s vitally important manufacturing sector is defended. Called Brexit On Our Terms, Unite consulted our shop stewards in manufacturing as well as the major employers’ organisations we deal with. We found there is considerable agreement on a number of key issues. These included:

• continued access to a tariff-free single market;
• no triggering of Article 50 until we see what exit from the EU will look like and what the alternatives are;
• the continuation and protection of employment rights gained through membership of the EU;
• a seat at the the table for trade unions to protect workers’ interests.

Also under discussion were the key issues of continuing infrastructure investment, access to skills and the development of an industrial strategy in a post-Brexit UK; re-shoring; procurement and the appalling attacks on foreign workers in recent months. The report also examines the alternatives to EU membership, in terms of trade, with a case study on a potential trade deal with Canada produced in consultation with our Workers Uniting partners in the United Steelworkers.

On trade deals the government is in a mess. Ministers claimed countries inside and outside the EU would be queuing up to do trade deals with us. So far there are few potential trade deals on offer – Australia, Mexico and South Korea. They have been completely wrong-footed twice by the US with a firm rejection of the UK getting any trade deal with them any time soon. Now we have ‘hard Brexit’ looming. Just how the government is going to handle these complex negotiations is highly questionable.

The future of UK manufacturing and decent jobs hangs in the balance. Unite will not stand by and allow jobs, pay and conditions to be attacked by employers claiming Brexit as an excuse.

This article first appeared in Labour Briefing.

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Their Brexit or Ours?

4th November 2016

Their Brexit or Ours?

By Simon Hewitt

THE FIRST THING TO UNDERSTAND about the so-called ‘Brexit’ debate is that Brexit is not the issue. As with any fundamental shock to an economy, EU exit will represent an opportunity to renegotiate the contours of economic power within our society, the distribution of wealth between wages and profits and much else beside. In whose favour, if anyone’s, exit works will depend on the outcome of this. What we need to demand - and here the title of Unite’s new document is exactly right - is Brexit on our terms.

‘We’ here are the vast majority of the population - dependent on wages or benefits, sensitive to the price of goods in the shops, black and white, male and female, old and young. The battle between hard and soft approaches to Brexit, focusing on things like whether Britain remains in the single market, is not our battle. The current debate is a family row between different sections of British capital, those more or less dependent on EU markets. Which approach will work best for us will depend on the highly unpredictable circumstances of the global economy at the time of exit, and does not deserve campaigning energy. Nor should we tie ourselves in knots over the niceties of Article 50.

The left’s time and resources would be better spent at the present time on campaigns centred on clear demands around which we can unite people. Free movement and the right of non-UK nationals to remain here after exit must be in first place. Similarly the defence of employment rights is essential. We should also start talking about protecting people from price increases after exit, using the occasion to challenge the norms of the free market and so shift the parameters of the debate.

How successful the left is at doing this will determine whether the next couple of years sees a carnival of reaction or the opening up of new possibilities. At the moment, the first looks much more likely. This only reinforces the importance of our getting to grips with these issues and acting effectively now. The possibility of a good outcome remains. Let’s seize the agenda and fight for an outcome that benefits the vast majority of people, not just in Britain but across the world.

This article first appeared in Labour Briefing.

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Momentum’s Future

3rd November 2016

UNANIMOUS STATEMENT FROM MOMENTUM STEERING COMMITTEE

The Steering Committee recognises and regrets the discontent and frustration felt by Momentum members in recent days. Momentum’s democratic structures were always intended to develop. Unfortunately, this summer’s leadership election delayed that development, with all our energy being diverted into ensuring Jeremy Corbyn’s reelection.

The Committee recognises the need for a greater level of accountability and transparency from the leadership and administration of the organisation and will work to deliver that over the coming weeks.

Our path to democratisation, through our first National Conference in the new year, has not been sufficiently effectively communicated, leading, at times, to a breakdown in trust between different sections of our movement. There was not enough consultation and discussion with the diverse political and organisational traditions that exist in our movement. Pluralism is our strength, and all views must be properly engaged with.

After further discussion, the Steering Committee has agreed unanimously the following path for Momentum’s democratisation, which places unity, pluralism and member-control at its heart.

The National Committee, postponed from this Saturday, will take place on 3 December. We will ensure that this meeting is properly representative, including new elections for our liberation strands where necessary. A plan for ensuring this will be submitted and approved by the Steering Committee at the latest by 11 November.

A further National Committee meeting will be held in January before our Conference in February. Our Conference, involving all members of Momentum, groups and affiliated organisations, will decide our organisation’s long-term structure.

Taking into account the strong views on both sides of the OMOV (one member, one vote) vs. delegate for Conference votes, the Steering Committee has agreed on a recommendation to the National Committee of a suitable format. There will be both a physical delegates conference to thoroughly debate proposals submitted from the membership, and then OMOV voting on the proposals in the period after the conference. The details of this procedure will be determined over the coming weeks.

We know all levels of Momentum are committed to a truly inclusive and democratic structure and will make it succeed over the next few months.

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Still no Truth and no Justice for Orgreave Miners

2nd November 2016

Still no Truth and no Justice for Orgreave Miners

On October 31st Home Secretary Amber Rudd made the announcement that the government had no intention of holding an enquiry into the events at Orgreave in 1984 during the great miners’ strike. This was a shock, as the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign have been campaigning for years for the truth to be unearthed and Theresa May had strung them along with promises of an enquiry.

On 18th June 1984 around 5,000 miners sought to picket the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire. There they were set upon by more than 6,000 police from all around the country. They were funnelled into an enclosed area and attacked mercilessly, including by club-wielding coppers on horse. Many were badly injured and 95 charged with riot, which at that time carried a potential life sentence.

Rudd sneered that there was no need for an enquiry as nobody had died (no thanks to the efforts of the police) and no injustice had occurred. This is because when the court cases against the miners came up, the police stitch-up fell apart as the police shamelessly perjured themselves and fabricated evidence - with identical forms of words. No injustice occurred because the vindictiveness of the police was matched by their incompetence!

A while back the BBC got hold of hundreds of documents that had been mouldering in a garage.They revealed that dozens of officers - from different police forces, involved in separate arrests - had written the same phrases, again and again, virtually word-for-word.

This was the action by the same South Yorkshire police force who conducted a cover-up on their part in the deaths of 95 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough. When the enquiry was finally held after decades of campaigning it found that South Yorkshire police had conducted “malpractice with impunity”.

Officially the Tory government claimed not to be interfering in the 1984-85 miners’ strike. In fact Thatcher’s fingers were all over the police riot at Orgreave - literally. Paul Mason has discovered a memo by Tory John Redwood in the National Archive marked secret covered in her handwriting.
Here

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign have unearthed evidence from other documents showing the Thatcher was involved in efforts to smear the miners, direct police operations against them and fast track prosecutions. More documentary evidence incriminating the Tories still lies buried. The Campaign believed an enquiry could unearth it.

No wonder the present Tory government wants to bury this can of worms. Norman Tebbit, a member of the Tory government at the time, whined that an enquiry would have been “a stick with which to beat the Thatcher government” – including himself of course.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised that Labour will not let this go and a future Labour government would open an enquiry. He added that, “The determination of people to get justice never goes away and the government should remember that.”

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite added, “Amber Rudd’s shameful refusal to hold an inquiry into Orgreave smacks of a continued cover-up by the establishment. It will be a bitter blow to those who seek the truth and justice, to those to whom her government gave false hope.The brutal actions of South Yorkshire police at Orgreave, the subsequent cover-up and the injustice to ordinary working men and women cannot go unanswered.”

The mining communities and the rest of us are entitled to a full, independent enquiry. An enquiry into what happened at Orgreave would show the true face of the Tory government.

 

 

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Defend Jackie Walker! Defend Free Speech on Israel!

1st November 2016

Defend Jackie Walker! Defend Free Speech on Israel!

By Pete Firmin

FOR A SECOND TIME, JACKIE WALKER has been suspended from membership by the Labour Party, having been cleared of any offence the first time. Although the Party, as is its usual practice, has not notified her of the reason for her suspension, it is generally believed to arise from remarks she made (or is claimed to have made) at a training session at Labour Party Conference.

I was at that training session. Like several others involved in ‘Free Speech on Israel’, I was concerned that the Party was holding a training session on antisemitism, and even more that the session was to be led by a member of the Jewish Labour Movement.

The Chakrabarti Report came out against breaking anti-racist training down into separate “racisms”, and there was no suggestion that such training be given by the JLM, whose views are known to be contentious among many Jewish members of the Party. The only place such training has been suggested (other than by the JLM itself) is in the report by Baroness Royall into allegations of antisemitism in Oxford University Labour Club. She found none, but still proposed that there be training given by the JLM on antisemitism. That proposal has never been endorsed.

Jackie is being pilloried mainly for two things she said. She questioned why Holocaust Memorial Day could not include all holocausts - Jackie is well known for raising the fact that the death of millions of Africans in the slave trade goes unmarked. And - after several other anti-Zionist Jews had made the same point - she said that she had not heard a definition of antisemitism which she could work with ‘here’. She was not denying that a definition existed, but like others before her, was asking the trainer for his definition of antisemitism. Whether you agree with Jackie or not on these points is irrelevant. No one has yet shown them to be antisemitic.

At this point the real agenda of the Jewish Labour Movement became clear. Mike Katz, the JLM vice-chair giving the ‘training’, referred to the EUMC (European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia) definition. In fact, the report he was referring to, which attempts to equate criticism of Israel with antisemitism, was not drawn up by the EUMC and never adopted by it. It was largely drafted by the American Jewish Committee in opposition to the EUMC’s own definition of antisemitism. The EUMC merely put it on its website as a draft for consultation with a view to revising it. Its director said it “should be viewed as ‘work in progress’ … with a view to redrafting”.

This never happened and the EUMC’s successor body, the Fundamental Rights Agency, later dropped it as not useful. A version of this discredited EUMC definition has now been adopted by Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee in its report on antisemitism which the Committee wants written into law and into the constitution of political parties. Much could be written about problems with the Party’s training sessions, not just this one, but this stands out for its crassness, and for the fact that the JLM secretly recorded the whole session and then released the recording to the media. Not only does this contravene the law on data protection, but the Party has yet to make any public denunciation of the recording of what was its meeting.

Allied to this, the JLM is attempting to get the Party to adopt a rule change which effectively says that someone accused of antisemitism is automatically guilty, and claiming the findings of the McPherson report into the police investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence as their justification - although that report said all allegations should be fully investigated, not that they were necessarily proven. They hope to guilt-trip the Party into accepting their proposals with their claim that to do otherwise is to refuse to listen to the Jewish community, despite the fact that many Jews disagree with them.
. Subsequently, the JLM went on the attack. Never satisfied with Jackie’s previous acquittal by the Party and denouncing Chakrabarti for not having found that the Labour Party has a significant problem with antisemitism, they want scalps to advance their efforts at closing down debate on Israel/Palestine and undermining Corbyn. Tweets criticising Jackie from a Guardian journalist appeared almost immediately, briefed by “a senior member of Momentum”. These tweets have since disappeared. That day the Guardian online, followed immediately by the paper version, quoted a “spokesman from Momentum” announcing that a Steering Committee would be held the following Monday where Jackie Walker would be suspended! In an extraordinary move Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the TSSA, threatened to withdraw support and office facilities from Momentum if Jackie was not suspended as vice-chair of Momentum.

The Labour Party moved to suspend Jackie following the statements of the ‘leaked’ Momentum source and the intervention of Cortes. Despite the anonymous Momentum spokesman and the comments by Cortes, Momentum announced that Jackie was removed as vice-chair because of a “lack of confidence” and not because of any allegations of antisemitism. The Momentum Steering Committee has neither condemned Manuel’s blackmail, started an investigation into the leak nor launched a campaign against Jackie’s suspension by the Labour Party, despite claiming to oppose it.

This is part of a worrying trend in Momentum, reinforced by proposals in circulation on how a conference in February 2017 should be conducted only discussed by two members of the Steering Committee before being sent out, and with little time for Momentum groups to discuss before they need to be finalised. Some fear transparency and accountability could be as difficult to achieve in Momentum as in the Labour Party.

Apart from anything else, the Momentum decision on Jackie is shortsighted, apparently failing to realise that the JLM and their allies will be emboldened by their decision and on the search for others to attack. The only way to stop this advance is by a rigorous defence of Jackie Walker and rejection of the claim that criticism of Israel (including its right to exist as a Jewish state) is intrinsically antisemitic. Briefing readers should campaign for Jackie’s reinstatement by the Party and a calling to account of the Momentum Steering Committee, as many Momentum groups are already doing.

This article appeared in the November issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC.

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Officers Elected at 2016 LRC Conference

30th October 2016

Officers Elected at 2016 LRC Conference on 29th October 2016

President: John McDonnell
Chair: Matt Wrack
Vice Chairs: Norrette Moore, Claire Wadey
Political Secretary: Mick Brooks
Treasurer:  Alison McGarry
Membership Secretaries: Keith Henderson/Adam Thompson [Job share]
Administrator: Michael Calderbank
Web manager:  Seema Chandwani.
Local group Organisers: Patrick Hall/John Wiseman [Job share], Claire Wadey,

NEC
Graham Bash
Jan Davidson
Pete Firmin
Suzanne Gannon
Gary Heather
Patricia Jackson/Janet Johnson [J/S]
Mike Phipps
Mancyia Uddin

Union Section
Maria Exall
Ian Hodson / Peter John Fox

Equalities
Jackie Walker
Austin Harney/Louise Reece Jones [J/S]
Patrick Hall

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McDonnell Lashes Hammond and the Tories

25th October 2016

McDonnell Lashes Hammond and the Tories

An internal briefing document shows that the Government is “unlikely to bring deficit reduction entirely back on track”. It was mistakenly posted online.

The briefing, marked “sensitive: for internal use only”, was accidentally published on a government website and says that a continuing run of “disappointing data” is leading to “slow deficit reduction”. It was likely intended for ministers and Treasury civil servants, and it states that: “For the year to date the deficit is £2.3bn lower than last year; at a fall of 4.8%, well behind the 27.0% reduction forecast.”

Responding to the findings, McDonnell said:

“Philip Hammond today refused to mention the Government’s fiscal targets over the last six year, instead the Chancellor today referred vaguely to “fiscal discipline”. This internal Treasury document shows why.

“It refers to ‘a run of disappointing data’ and the unlikelihood of getting deficit reduction ‘back on track’, officially confirming the Tory failure on the economy.

“Now we’ve had it from the official civil servants it’s time the Tories came clean. They should drop the spin and admit the truth: they are failing on the public finances and working people are paying the price.”

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Walker vs McNicol Appeal

25th October 2016

Walker vs McNicol Appeal

By Jackie Walker

I am Jackie Walker, life-long anti-racist campaigner and socialist. I was suspended from the Labour Party in May of this year, amidst what appears to have been a breach of Data Protection law by Iain McNicol as General Secretary of the Labour Party.

This is my campaign to raise money in order to bring legal proceedings against Iain McNicol for this serious breach of data – briefing a major community media publication or other parties before informing me of my suspension from the party. This is not acceptable in his position as General Secretary of the Labour Party.

This case matters as my story is just one of many where Labour members have found themselves in a similar position. While this may not be the only case where a breach has occurred, as I was abroad at the time it may well be the most provable.

We invite anybody who has a personal interest in this case or the wider public to contribute.

Statement from Martin Howe - Solicitor (representing)

“Jackie Walker has faced a barrage of hurtful, threatening and nasty abuse since the private details of her investigation by the Labour Party over alleged anti-Semitism was leaked to the press before even she knew of her suspension by the Party.  This apparent breach of her private data has had a devastating impact on her public and private well-being and has led directly to her being pre-judged and unfairly cast as a racist before she was given any opportunity to tell her side of the story.  Data Protection laws are there to protect all of us and any breach is a very serious matter.”

About Jackie…
I am Jewish, my Russian born Jewish father and Jamaican born mother of Sephardi Jewish descent, were brought together in their shared political commitment to the Civil Rights movement of 1950s America. My mother brought me to England in the late fifties. My experience is not untypical of blacks of that generation. I have been a victim of violent, structural, and persistent racism ever since I arrived in this country in 1959. My personal response to this, my own everyday resistance, was not to become a particularist or a separatist but to be a universalist. I have been an anti-racist activist and campaigner all my life, a supporter of the rights of Palestinians, and have worked with disadvantaged families and communities nationally and internationally.
More about my suspension…

On 4th May I was suspended for the alleged (subsequently cleared) charge of antisemitism. As a Jewish person, whose partner is Jewish, this was heart-breaking. Since May I have continued to be targeted by the media, in print, online and in other places.  Currently I am suspended for questions asked at a training session on ‘Confronting Antisemitism & Engaging Jewish Voters’ at this year’s Labour Conference, after being unethically filmed by a Jewish Labour Movement campaigns officer who is also a Labour councillor. It seems this training was not a ‘safe space for all Jews’ by any means.
Consequences of my suspension…

As soon as the first article was released before my notification had even arrived, trolls circled for the kill, posting spooky blacked up faces (and worse) to my Facebook account. The community and national newspapers led the attacks, querying my Jewish identity (a racist move in itself), my work as an anti-racist activist and my political commitment.

When my suspension was lifted things got worse. Indignation at my alleged breach reached the heights of irony when Nigel Farage, anxious not to miss out on the fun being had by among others, the Spectator, a number of Labour MPs and officers of the Party, dedicated an article in Breitbart and a good dose of righteous indignation on national TV to publicly calling me out as a racist. The widespread hate campaign against me led to public abuse,

Strangers shouting ‘racist’ as I walked to the tube. With the murderous racist political discourse now taking the place of debate, I became conscious I was recognisable on the street.

As General Secretary, Iain McNicol is directly responsible for the damage caused to me, my family and friends by the decision of persons unknown - who briefed a major community publication in regards to my suspension and allegation, before the Labour Party had informed me.

Thank you for your support!
With thanks to Free Speech on Israel

About the claimant
I am a life-long anti-racist campaigner and socialist, a supporter of the rights of Palestinians, and have worked with disadvantaged families and communities nationally and internationally.

Pledge Now: https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/walker-vs-mcnicol/pledge/

From crowdjustice.org

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Resolution Booklet for 2016 Conference

25th October 2016

Here

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Labour’s Alternative to Tory Austerity

24th October 2016

Labour’s Alternative to Tory Austerity

By Barbara Humphries

The Labour Assembly against Austerity was founded in 2013, as part of the People’s Assembly against Austerity. In spite of support from the major trades unions and the late Tony Benn, it only had the support of a limited number of Labour MPs at the time. These of course included Jeremy Corbyn.  Labour was not a committed anti-austerity party then – Ed Miliband was telling the Conservative-Liberal coalition only that they were ‘cutting too far and too fast’, a fairly timid opposition.

So much has changed in three years, with its third conference, which was held at the weekend, attended by 300 people. We were addressed this time by members of the Shadow Cabinet, such as Diane Abbott and Cat Smith. They both outlined the catastrophic fall in living standards, which has taken place as a result of austerity, possibly the largest ever experienced by working people in this country. Cat Smith said that many local authorities were facing bankruptcy due to government cuts, and were going to be unable to meet their statutory duties. Diane said that the Tories were trying to find scapegoats for their failures, such as refugees and migrants. Kelvin Hopkins MP put this into historical perspective, when he said that the strategy of neo-liberalism, which has dominated politics since the 1970s, is now being challenged.

The conference was divided into workshops, on Corbynomics, tackling the housing crisis, inequality in austerity Britain, scapegoating migrants, health and education, and women and austerity. It was only possible to attend three of these, unfortunately!

I attended the discussion on Corbynomics, which was led by economist Michael Burke and former Labour MP Chris Williamson. Michael Burke said that the British economy was twice the size of what it was in the 1970s, but people were worse off, working longer hours for lower real wages. It was necessary to invest to grow the economy, taking advantage of low interest rates. This would generate the wealth needed to protect our public services. The British economy had a productivity problem, with much lower rates than in Germany for instance. The government’s plans for Brexit had confirmed that ‘project fear’ had been right. If access to the single market was not maintained we could expect to see falling GDP rates over the next 15 years – in other words we could be 7% poorer.

Chris Williamson pointed out how austerity had failed in its own terms. The government was nowhere near being able to pay off the national debt in spite of years of cuts. It was borrowing more than in 2010. The redistribution of wealth away from working people and their families was adding to the failure of the economy. Corporations were sitting on funds they were not investing. Tax cuts for the rich were pointless as they did not spend their money. In the 1970s the top rate of tax had been 83%.  A house building programme led by local authorities could help regenerate the economy, as well as solving the housing shortage.

In the session on inequality, speakers outlined the dire situation facing young people, whose expectations of education and employment rights were being diminished. Many did not have the opportunity to join a trades union, said Caroline Hill, chair of Young Labour. Chris Williamson said that by 2020 Britain faced becoming the most unequal society in the developed world, worse even than the US.

Speakers at the closing rally – Building for a Labour Victory, included shadow cabinet ministers Catherine West and John McDonnell.

For a full list of speakers,see

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Urgent: Keith Henderson Appeal.

20th October 2016

Urgent: Keith Henderson Appeal. 

First, Keith would like to thank everyone who has donated already to this appeal.

Keith Henderson was dismissed from his job as a regional organiser by the General, Municipal and Boilermakers (GMB) trade union for mounting a picket at the House of Commons on 30 November 2011 on behalf of the demand of a decent pension for GMB members. They were low-paid workers demanding their right to a decent pension. They had democratically decided on the action at their branch meeting.

On 2013 am Employment Tribunal judged that Keith had suffered unlawful direct discrimination by his employer, the GMB trade union, on the basis of his left wing democratic socialist beliefs. The GMB has successfully appealed against this decision, right up to the Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal handed down a judgement last week making an order for Keith to pay the Respondent (GMB Union) the sum of £12,000 within 21 days. This means the deadline is 1st November 2016.
Keith is a low paid worker on a zero hour contract and is worried that this will put him and his family at risk of losing their home.

The GMB has made it clear that they will enforce the order that was made for Keith to pay them £12,000.
This is now an urgent appeal, therefore, we are writing to you again to ask you if you could help Keith by making a donation to his appeal and/or asking your Labour Party or trade union branch to contribute to this appeal.
It is important that we stand by someone who has stood by our movement in solidarity. John McDonnell fully supports this appeal
Thank you for your assistance.

The Labour Representation Committee

Donate here:

Why did he lose? Keith adds

The main reason the appeal was dismissed is because the original Judgment of the Watford Employment Tribunal is so poorly written and some the findings of discriminatory treatment are contradictory findings of fact. Therefore, the Court of Appeal upheld the Judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

The Court of Appeal was of the opinion that the EAT Judge could make a substitute finding of fact without hearing any further evidence or referring the case back to the Watford Employment Tribunal to seek clarification on their Judgment.

My lawyer’s still believe this is wrong and the case should be referred back to the original Employment Tribunal Panel for clarification, but, it will cost too much money to pursue the case any further.

Socialism is still a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. This is a permanent gain for the labour movement from the hearing

Keith will down in the history books as the person who made the law to show discrimination against someone on grounds of left wing socialist beliefs is unlawful, that itself is a very important thing to have done and we achieve it. At paragraph 62 of the EAT judgment which still stands states

” At paragraph 48 it concluded that he is a ‘left-wing democratic socialist’ and held the beliefs identified. Moreover it found that “there were clear outward signs of those beliefs being manifested… particularly clear from the picketing incident…” The Tribunal concluded that left-wing democratic socialism is a protected belief for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and this conclusion is not challenged on this appeal.”

We now have socialism set as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 by the Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and now the Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice.

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What the Tories’ ‘Living Wage’ Means

18th October 2016

What the Tories’ ‘Living Wage’ Means

By Ian Hodson, National President BFAWU

THE TORIES’ ‘LIVING WAGE’ has been a disaster for many low paid workers. Figures from the Low Pay Commission suggest that nearly half of all low paid jobs are in two sectors - wholesale/retail and hotels/ restaurants. The introduction of the living wage has resulted in a further widening of inequality in workplaces, with workers below the age of 25 being paid less and, in many cases, other workers having their overtime, shift premium and bank holiday payments slashed in order to fund a paltry increase. As a result of this, our union has seen strikes across the 2 Sisters Food Group, with potentially more to come.

Our union has been trying to organise workers at Samworth Brothers - a company which recently hit the headlines for slashing their employees’ terms and conditions in order to make them fund the living wage themselves. When the workers there started to contact us for help and to join the BFAWU, they singled out the person they felt was responsible for organising the union at the site and sacked him. Kumaran Bose’s only crime was to speak out against the unfairness of the changes. The company then attempted to use ‘union-busting’ techniques to misinform, mislead and intimidate the rest of the staff.

In many cases, workers are looking at losses of between £1,500-£5,000 a year. But it’s not just food manufacturing that’s being hit, as others working in big DIY chain B&Q, the John Lewis Partnership (which includes Waitrose), Marks and Spencer, Tesco and coffee chain Cafe Nero have all slashed their already hard-pressed workers’ terms and conditions to fund this Tory gimmick. The living wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK. This is what is needed to be able to simply exist - not necessarily what is needed in order to live comfortably. In Britain, it has become acceptable for people to have to do two or three different jobs in order to put food on the table. A young woman I met who works in Poundland starts work at 7 am, finishes at 5 pm, and then does a cleaning job from 5.30 pm -7 pm before working in a restaurant for three hours or more, for six or sometimes seven days a week. That’s just so she can pay her rent, council tax and fuel bills. She still struggles to pay for transport to and from work. When I asked what she does away from work, she said that she sometimes gets a bottle of wine and has friends round, as going out is too expensive a ‘treat’. This is how many young workers are living today.

What has also become apparent is the link between low pay/job insecurity and mental health. Many young people are not able to earn enough in order to do the things that young people should be able to do, such as enjoying the odd night out and buying new clothes. This inequality and job insecurity is hamstringing their ability to make and build new relationships, develop social skills and grow their self esteem and confidence. It’s a damning indictment that workers and trade unions have to stick their heads above the parapet and be demonised, simply for making the call for a minimum wage of £10 an hour that doesn’t exclude young people and an end to the despicable exploitation of zero hours contracts.

Our Glasgow branch of BFAWU members from the fast-food industry organised a recruitment drive with some top bands, comedians and a personal message from Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. The event was very well attended and everyone signed up to the campaign for an end to the youth rate and the call for £10 an hour and trade unions rights. We will be holding more events organised by our members, building our union and giving a platform for working people to come together and build a fairer more inclusive society. The government-led agenda of slashing rights and restrictions in the workplace, allowing huge rent rises and ever spiralling transport and food costs, along with stagnating wages, isn’t an economic necessity. It’s a political choice. People are beginning to realise this and are finally waking up to the fact that many politicians are bankrolled by big business and have only their interests at heart. People are witnessing their public services being stripped to the bone and their terms and conditions being slashed while big corporations like Google, Apple and McDonald’s avoid tax and Mike Ashley and Philip Green avoid the dock. The ‘difficult decisions’ politicians make never affect these people.

Let’s put the blame where it belongs - not on migrants, the disabled and the unemployed. Let’s instead blame the politicians whose decisions are having a detrimental effect on those at the bottom end of the pay-scale and are allowing the real villains of the piece to get away with murder. Don’t be divided by the prejudices of the 1%. Our unity frightens the life out of them.

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For a Democratic Constitution for Momentum

14th October 2016

For a Democratic Constitution for Momentum

Momentum is potentially the most important left wing mass movement that has emerged in Britain for decades. Momentum emerged with the victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest in 2015, so it is a very new movement.

Its first Conference is to be held in February 2017. This Conference is vitally important for Momentum and the left in the Labour Party. It provides the golden opportunity to set up a democratic constitution and to spell out a socialist programme for the movement.

The Labour Party Socialist Network has affiliated to the LRC, which we welcome. The LPSN has published the first proposals for the forthcoming Momentum Conference  
here:

All LRC members active in Momentum should carefully consider their proposals to the Conference. These published proposals should kickstart these discussions, which are becoming urgent. The LPSN is quite right to point out that these are only preliminary proposals and that they do not mention the election and structure of Momentum’s National Committee.

Please note in particular that the closing date for drafts to be submitted to Momentum HQ is November 19th. Get cracking!

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Appeal for Miners’ Pension Scheme

11th October 2016

The UK miners pension scheme,
for Justice & Fair Play Association.

Hello Everyone. I hope you are all well.
Some of you I have not contacted for a while, my apologies, some of you might not even remember me, but all of you have helped me in the past, mostly with the Kent Miners Festival so many thanks for that. Today, I am calling on you all to help me again, please?
I am an active member of the UK Miners Pension Scheme, for Justice & Fair Play Association.
In short, our mining pension has been plundered to the sum of £8Billion +
Following a very successful 1st Rally in Liverpool last week, organised by our Campaign Leader, Les Moore and his steering group, where rousing speeches were made by many Miners Leaders from across the UK and emphatic supporting speeches by Tosh McDonald, ASLEF and Peter Stefanovic, London Lawyer (see links below) it is now time to elevate this campaign to the next level.
I have attached our petition form and a brief.
Our surviving miners, miners widows, children/grandchildren and our next generation, need your support.
Please support Les Moore and the UK Miners Pension Scheme, for Justice & Fair Play Association.
Please pass on this request to all of your contacts. Please get as many petition forms filled in as you possibly can. Please join our campaign.  The Kent Miners Festival will be relaunched next August Bank Holiday Monday at Betteshanger Country Park, more info will follow.
Regards
Gary

Get Petition Here:

Get Brief Here:

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John McDonnell: Appeal for Keith Henderson

11th October 2016

John McDonnell: Appeal for Keith Henderson

Dear Comrade,
Keith Henderson Appeal. 

I am writing to ask for your support for Keith Henderson.
Keith is a longstanding, loyal and active supporter of the Labour Representation Committee and Momentum. He has an excellent record of campaigning for the left in the Labour Party and the trade union movement.
On 2013 am Employment Tribunal judged that Keith had suffered unlawful direct discrimination by his employer, the GMB trade union, on the basis of his left wing democratic socialist beliefs.
The GMB successfully appealed this decision and the case is now back in court this week.
I have tried to secure a resolution to this dispute by agreement but with no success.
Keith is now facing a possible bill of up to £15,000 to cover legal costs.
Keith is a low paid worker and is worried that this will put him and his family at risk of losing their home.
I am writing to ask you if you could help Keith by making a donation to his appeal and/or asking your Labour Party or trade union branch to contribute to this appeal.
It is important that we stand by someone who has stood by our movement in solidarity.
Thank you for your assistance.
John McDonnell MP


Donations can be made through:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where is Theresa May taking the Tories?

8th October 2016

Where is Theresa May taking the Tories?

By Mick Brooks

Theresa May has vigorously worked to rebrand the Tory Party at their 2016 Conference. Why? The shock referendum ‘No’ vote has revealed that a majority in this country are deeply unhappy with the political establishment in Britain today. The referendum result in turn is an aftershock from the crash of 2008, which meant that living standards for most have stagnated or declined for a decade.

The Great Recession of 2008, and the resulting imposition of austerity, definitively discredited the ideology of neoliberalism, which had inspired both the Conservatives and New Labour from 1989 on. Both groups had failed utterly to articulate and defend the concerns of working people. In order to preserve the Tories’ future, May has dumped the out-of-touch millionaires of the Cameron-Osborne clique like last week’s rubbish.

In her Conference speeches May has continually referred to the problems of the working class. In doing so she has wrong-footed the New Labour ideologues, who were so afraid of mentioning ‘class’ that they talked instead of ‘hard-working families’.

So far all the pledges to improve the lot of workers have been so much hot air. We will watch the Brexit process attentively to make sure the government doesn’t try to water down or shred existing worker protection in EU legislation, as many Tories hoped to do. May has been talking the talk, but the Tory Party is unlikely to walk the walk.

What sort of Conservative Party has emerged from the Conference?

• May’s first attempt to stamp her identity on politics was to raise the issue of creating more grammar schools, of separating out ‘successes’ and a majority of ‘failures’ at the ripe old age of eleven.
• May’s stint at the Home Office was dominated by her obsession with migration (which she was spectacularly unsuccessful in curbing).  In 2013 she deployed ‘Go Home’ vans on our streets against illegal migrants, a clear incitement to racism.
• She was one of the main proponents of the Snoopers’ Charter, the Draft Communication Data Bill which would force internet service providers and mobile phone companies to keep records and hand them over to the government to trawl vast amounts of private data.
• For six years she sat in Cabinet in a government that was bleeding the NHS to death.
• There will be no change to proposed cuts in tax for the rich and big business.
• Austerity will continue, though Chancellor Philip Hammond has abandoned Osborne’s target to end the government deficit, since the government would never hit it anyway.

In short, though Thatcherism has been ‘dumped’, so far from capturing the middle ground, a May government represents a return to hard-line traditional social Conservatism and the support for a strong state as against the socially liberal, ideological free marketers like Cameron. For the time being she has won. The ‘Remain’ campaign kept their heads down at Conference. Cameron and Osborne were unpersoned, as in Orwell’s ‘1984’. The government is on course for a hard Brexit, though of course it could all unravel.

Ed Miliband was pilloried by David Cameron in 2013 of “wanting to live in a Marxist universe” for modest proposals to rein in the profit-gouging big six energy companies. Now May is making similar noises. John McDonnell was castigated for a reckless programme of ‘tax and spend’ for proposing to borrow at today’s exceptionally low interest rates to build up our infrastructure. Hammond now reluctantly suggests the same.

May’s rhetoric is important. She spoke at the Conference arguing that the state should intervene to “stand up FOR the weak and…up TO the powerful”. This has alarmed free market Tories and, more important, the big business sponsors who bankroll the Party. If serious she could be on a collision course with them. More likely, she will be forced to back down.

The Tories have interpreted the Brexit vote as a referendum for drastic curbs on migration. There is no evidence for this assertion. May seems to be cuddling up UKIP voters electorally, while UKIP in turn is trying to infiltrate the Tory party. Proposals to slim down overseas student quotas are an attempt to strangle one of our most successful export industries – higher education. Amber Rudd’s claim that “foreign workers are taking jobs British people could do” and demands for firms to list migrant workers are more attempts to fan the racist flame.

This hard line against migration is at odds with the posturing to be on the side of the working class. Migrants are part of the working class and we defend them as such. They are our people. May’s ploy is really to turn worker against worker. That is a campaign she must not be allowed to win.
The old neoliberal consensus shared by New Labour and the Cameron Tories is discredited. The emergence of Corbynism within the Labour Party shows the changing political agenda. Theresa May has adapted to the new political reality quite cleverly. Of course her Party’s claim to stand for the working class is utterly fraudulent.  Labour is the Party of the working class and proud of it.

Jeremy Corbyn summed it up in his Labour Conference speech: “Who seriously believes that the Tories could ever stand up to the privileged few? They are the party of the privileged few, funded by the privileged few, for the benefit of the privileged few.”

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If Jeremy wins

7th October 2016

If Jeremy wins

By John McDonnell

I am writing this before the result of the leadership election is announced and despite my adherence to historical materialism I am also deeply superstitious when it comes to predicting election results. Having lost in my home constituency of Hayes and Harlington by 54 votes in 1992 after four recounts I take no election for granted.

However I still believe in the need for planning for whatever outcome. So if Jeremy wins we need a clear plan of action to put in place the initiatives we will want to take and to address the immediate issues that will face us.

A first step will be to appoint a new ministerial team. The current Shadow Cabinet has proved to be effective, principled and loyal. There will be some vacancies to fill as some members move on to other positions and other elected roles. This will give people the opportunity to come forward and offer their services, including some who resigned earlier this year. This will enable Jeremy to have the Shadow Cabinet he has always aspired to that reflects the range of opinion in the Party and the PLP.

There are many PLP members in the second and third tier of the ministerial teams who didn’t resign and others who did. The message coming back during the summer is that most just want to get back to work developing Labour’s policies and continuing to oppose the Tories. That’s exactly what our party members and supporters want and the message that they have sent us all. As a result we have the potential for a strong, creative team emerging.

I believe that the leadership election was a classic attempt at a coup, promoted by a small group that from the outset could not come to terms with Jeremy’s election and would not accept his mandate and the wishes of our membership. The vast bulk of the PLP are not in that camp and I believe will work constructively with us if Jeremy is re-elected.

The interesting feature of the leadership election campaign and debates was that there didn’t seem to be any major policy differences between the candidates. The most common expression we heard was “I agree with Jeremy but…”. Apart from the issue of Trident the left agenda Jeremy had been putting forward was accepted by MPs campaigning for the other candidate. However if there is to be a comradely spirit of give and take after the leadership election the criticisms levelled at Jeremy and our administration have to be addressed.

The question of competence came up several times. That means we have to address this firmly. We have to demonstrate that we are a government in waiting. I have argued for some time that we should structure and resource our operation in opposition on the same lines as if we were in government now. That means appointing a shadow professional team to advise on, develop and implement the policies we wish to bring together to campaign on in opposition and prepare for enactment when we enter into government.

We should appoint a shadow team of civil service type Permanent Secretaries, each one attached to each Shadow Cabinet team - and alongside them establish for each department a shadow policy advisory group drawn from experts and practitioners in each of the policy fields.This will demonstrate in practical terms that we are ready to move into office at a moment’s notice.

To develop our ideas and policies we need to maintain the enthusiasm that has been generated by the leadership campaigns and immediately organise a series of policy conferences and seminars all round the country bringing together party members, trade unionists, policy experts, campaigning organisations and partners in civil society organisations. This will help feed in the vast expertise of our members and supporters into our policy making process.

We also need to establish the campaigning organisation that we need to win us the next election based on the social movement that is now the Labour Party. That means providing our members with the resources and developing their campaigning skills that will enable them to communicate our ideas. We need to create both a mass prominent involvement of party members in every aspect of community life and also create our own media via the new technology at our disposal.We have in prospect the most exciting period in our party’s recent history. Let’s seize it with both hands

John McDonnell is Shadow Chancellor, MP for Hayes and Harlington, Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and Chair of the Labour Representation Committee. He has been heavily involved in Labour Briefing since the early years.

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Action For Rail

Background

Rail bosses are using the recession as an excuse to attack jobs and conditions and cut back on services and essential rail works, and hike rail fares - as LEAP research suggested they would. Thousands of jobs are being threatened or have been lost. At the same time rail fat cats are raking in big profits and bonuses on the back of the most expensive fares in Europe. Make no mistake: as the recession worsens so will the attack on rail workers and rail services. [continue...]

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