29th August 2016
Chakrabarti and the Purge
Below are sections from the Chakrabarti Report on anti-Semitism commissioned by the Labour Party and submitted in June 2016. This is part of an article by Mike Phipps already published on the LRC website. The full article is :
Shami Chakrabarti is a distinguished human rights barrister. From 2003 to 2016 she was Director of Liberty, the organisation set up to protect civil liberties in the UK. Earlier this year she was commissioned by the Labour Party to investigate allegations of anti-Semitism in the Party. The first two sentences of the Report read, “The Labour Party is not overrun by antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism. Further, it is the party that initiated every single United Kingdom race equality law.”
Shami was clearly disturbed by the lack of due process in the Party’s complaints procedure. At present we see a wholesale purge being conducted in the name of the NEC to prevent as many Corbyn supporters as possible from voting in the leadership election. Shami’s criticisms as to the lack of natural justice are more relevant than ever.
Investigations are carried out by persons unknown into Party members, who may then be suspended on vague allegations such as ‘being rude’ or, apparently, using the term ‘Blairite’.
There is no clear appeals procedure. Suspension can be for an indefinite period. The intention is clearly to deprive the member or supporter of their right to vote.
The Labour Party was founded by the trade unions. No unionised workplace would tolerate these kangaroo court procedures being used against their members for an instant. We must campaign for the NEC incoming after the Party Conference to install a complaints procedure that follows the elementary rules of natural justice along the lines of Chakrabarti’s guidelines.
What Chakrabarti recommends (in quotes) by Mike Phipps
“I recommend the drawing up, and adoption of, a readily accessible complaints procedure.” Further: “It is completely unfair, unacceptable and a breach of Data Protection law that anyone should have found out about being the subject to an investigation or their suspension by way of the media.” And: “The Labour Party should seek to uphold the strongest principles of natural justice, however difficult the circumstances, and to resist subjecting members to a trial by media.” And: “I do not subscribe to the view that every allegation of misconduct within the Party is a factional mischief, but nor do I feel that every investigation warrants immediate publicity (a punishment in itself), nor administrative suspension (with the inevitable shame and opprobrium that is likely to follow) - even if the allegation has attracted public controversy.”
“I find it regrettable, to say the least, that some subjects of recent suspension and disciplinary process, under the Party’s disciplinary procedures, found out about their suspensions and investigations as a result of media reporting rather than notice from the Party itself. Staff or elected officials should never feel it necessary (even during a pre-election media frenzy) - to operate a presumption of suspension. If anything, the presumption should be against interim suspension.” And: “Indeed, if the principle of proportionality had been properly applied in recent times, I query whether so many people would ever have been suspended at all.”
When a disciplinary measure is taken, there should be a right of review. There should also be a time limit on bringing disciplinary charges in relation to uncomradely conduct and behaviour.
There should be limits to how long parties can be put in special measures and run from the centre. “I recommend that the NEC gives urgent attention to any parts of the country that have been under “special measures” for more than six months” and “I recommend that going forward, no Labour Party unit in any part of the country should be subject to such a regime of executive control for more than six months without review by the NEC.”
The full Report is available with an Appendix on Key Recommendations on Rule Changes to the Rule Kook (2016) after p.31 here:
27th August 2016
Suspended Ronnie Draper at LRC TUC Fringe Meeting
It’s known that Labour’s Compliance Unit is currently working through applications to check whether the 180,000 new registered supporters who signed up to take part in the leadership election are eligible, or if some are members of, or public advocates for, other groups. This appears to reflect official desperation in the face of a Party transformed by the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
That this has resulted in the suspension of longstanding Labour member and General Secretary of the Labour-affiliated Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, Ronnie Draper - someone who has campaigned across the country for workers’ rights and against zero hours contracts - is utterly outrageous.
The LRC offers Ronnie our full support and calls for his immediate reinstatement to full Labour membership. Ronnie is speaking at our TUC fringe meeting in Brighton on the evening of Monday 12 September. We look forward to welcoming him to that event - hopefully as a fully reinstated Labour Party member.
Other speakers are: John McDonnell, Mark Serwotka, Jennie Formby, Manuel Cortes, Jackie Walker, English Collective of Prostitutes, Tosh McDonald, Matt Wrack.
LRC Meeting at TUC Conference
Monday 12th September 2016
Friends’ Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AF
6pm refreshments, meeting at 6.30pm. Get there early.
26th August 2016
Purge of Potential Voters in Leadership Election
A full-scale witch hunt seems to be in process in order to rig Labour’s leadership result. The unelected Compliance Unit (appointed by unelected General Secretary Iain McNicol) has been recruiting additional members to help check on the 650,000 LP members who should be entitled to vote. Nobody knows what the qualifications of these extra functionaries are – if any. Labour Party officials seem to be combing through members’ social media postings. The criteria for suspension and deprival of a vote are murky to say the least. They make it up as they go along.
Once they have identified a victim, he or she receives a bland, standardised letter which makes no reference to the alleged offence. It is very difficult to appeal when it is not clear what you are accused of. In any case there is no proper appeals procedure. In view of the number of likely victims, it is clear that it is hoped that any appeal will be too late, after the damage is done.
Their motto seems tobe the words of Macbeth, contemplating assassination, “If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly.”
John McDonnell Hits out at Purge
“The decision by Labour Party officials to suspend the Bakers’ Union leader Ronnie Draper from the party and deny him a vote in Labour’s leadership election over unidentified media posts is shocking, and appears to be part of a clear pattern of double standards.
“While Ronnie, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, has been denied his say in Labour’s election no action is being taken over the Labour peer Lord Sainsbury, who has given more than £2m to support the Liberal Democrats.
“And no action has been taken against Michael Foster, the Labour Party member who abused Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters and staff as Nazi stormtroopers in the Daily Mail.
“Both will, as things stand, be able to vote in this election. Meanwhile thousands of other members and registered supporters are reported to have been denied a vote without being given an explanation or opportunity to challenge the decision or process.
“Labour Party members will not accept what appears to be a rigged purge of Jeremy Corbyn supporters. The conduct of this election must be fair and even-handed.
“I am writing to Labour’s General Secretary Iain McNicol to demand that members and supporters who are suspended or lose their voting rights are given clear information about why action has been taken and a timely opportunity to challenge the decision.
“In particular the specification of particular terms of abuse to exclude Labour Party members from voting should not be applied retrospectively.”
The website link below seems to offer a useful guide to Labour Party members and supporters; Purge Proofing for Labour Supporters: a Handy guide by Billy Casper
25th August 2016
What does the Labour Leadership Election tell us?
By John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL – in between running for trains, jumping into cars, speaking on various platforms, TV and radio appearances and endless campaign organisation meetings – occasionally there is time for thought as the train speeds through Britain’s countryside.
I have been thinking about what the Labour leadership election has told us so far about the Party, its politics and our country. The most profound lesson is how far the Party’s political stance and even its language has been changed over the last year since Jeremy was elected leader. Labour’s politics have been transformed into an open declaration against austerity and the neoliberal economics that brought about the economic crisis of 2008. It is unimaginable that Labour could ever go back to supporting austerity, to endorsing attacks on benefit claimants, supporting aggressive wars or scapegoating migrants.
That is one of the immense changes brought about by the release of political energy that came from the campaign to elect Jeremy Corbyn in 2015. Last year’s leadership election was about securing that change in political direction for the Party and establishing the new politics that would secure that change in the long term, not just for the Party but also for the country.
The leadership election this time round is about democracy – whether the Labour Party leader elected by the biggest mandate of any political leader can be overthrown by an attempted coup at Westminster, just ten months on. And it is about whether the Party’s new political direction achieved by Jeremy’s election in 2015 can be secured or overthrown by the actions of a small minority, aided by the most aggressive media bias seen in recent political history.
As an aside, when the left claims media bias there is always the retort of left paranoia. This time the scale of media bias has been evidenced by independent studies from both the LSE and Greenwich University.
This election is about who the Party belongs to – is it 200 MPs in Westminster or is it over half a million activists across the country? It’s also about whether the Labour Party is a mass movement, open, inclusive and welcoming or is it a bureaucratic machine controlled from above and from the Westminster centre?
This election asks the question whether we are willing to develop the new kind of politics that we need to win future elections or whether we are going back to the old politics that lost Labour the last two elections.
The pre-existing formula was not working. Labour lost the 2010 and 2015 General Elections with paltry shares of the vote, 29% and 30%, and membership had plummeted to under 200,000 in the Brown and Miliband years. The share of the electorate that Labour won has been falling for decades. In 2010 and 2015 Labour won only one in five of all eligible voters.
Labour under Jeremy represents an opportunity to escape from Labour’s long running decline and build the sort of party that enables Labour to win elections. Part of that process is rebuilding trust in politics, honest straight talking politics, and banishing the era of spin, triangulation and sharp suited politicians saying whatever they think we want to hear.
Voting for Jeremy Corbyn is making a statement that Labour politics is about mobilising people, organising communities as a mass social movement to defeat the Tories – not just at the next General Election, but at every election we can. Voting for Jeremy is to offer a hopeful vision for the future – building council housing, giving health and social care the resources needed, investing in schools accountable to local communities, scrapping tuition fees and taking our railways back into public ownership.
The establishment is throwing its full weight behind this campaign to remove Jeremy from office. The establishment is saying to us, ‘How dare you elect a socialist as your leader.’ It wants a return to a politics where Labour leaders may make bold statements about changing society but are easily incorporated– a return to a politics where elections are simply a rotation of political elites.
My hope is that despite everything thrown against us by these influential and wealthy establishment forces within our society, we are all able to stand firm together in solidarity to return Jeremy as the leader of the Labour Party.
John writes every month in Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC
18th August 2016
Michael Robert’s new book, The Long Depression is being officially launched
at Bookmarks bookshop, 1, Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE.
Michael writes regularly for our magazine, Labour Briefing. He blogs at https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/
Michael will be speaking at 18:30 on Tuesday 20 September. Entry is £2, payable on the door.
9th August 2016
Sounds familiar? Labour in the 1980s
Excerpts from Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
by Richard Heffernan and Mike Marqusee (Verso Books, 1992)
The late Mike Marqusee was for many years editor of Labour Briefing
The failures of the 1974-79 Labour government produced a radicalisation within Labour’s ranks. This was expressed at the 1980 conference. Tony Benn surfed this radical wave in his campaign to become deputy leader, narrowly defeated in 1981. The leader and deputy leader were at this time elected by an electoral college of Party Members, Affiliated Trade Unions and Labour MPs. Before that, only the MPs voted to decide the leader and deputy. Probably the level of abuse aimed at Jeremy Corbyn by the establishment today exceeds that endured by Tony Benn in the 1980s. Denis Healey’s counter-campaign echoes Owen Smith’s leadership bid today in many respects, with radical posturing on policy combined with personal insults and denunciation of left wing supporters.
Labour’s Conference 1980
“The media ridiculed the Party’s divisions and the occasional chaos of the proceedings in Blackpool. But many of the speakers insisted that what the media found so amusing was nothing less than democracy in action: a freewheeling, unscripted, bottom-up democracy more precious to the Party than any other political asset. There were 179 contributions from the conference floor during that week in 1980 – including 113 from constituency delegates.
“A decade later it became commonplace to make jokes about the conferences of the early 1980s and to deride the unseemly spectacle of front-bench Labour MPs having to queue up for their turn at the rostrum . For many media pundits the ascendancy of the rank and file was an affront to their conception of politics as a game played out within the precincts of Westminster and a handful of television studios, a game in which they controlled the rules and kept the score. They loathed the Labour conference above all because they could not control its agenda, because it allowed to be placed before masses of people arguments – about alternative economic policies, about democracy, about workers’ rights, about the horror of nuclear weapons – which they had spent much of their lives excluding from public view.
“On the Friday morning, during the last session of the conference, the Party’s general secretary, Ron Hayward, tried to make a virtue of the fierce debates and unpredictable votes. ‘Have a look at the Tory conference,’ he advised delegates, then joked, ‘We are going to do it to you next year. I will select the resolutions; you will darned well see no other resolutions will come on. We will make sure the standing ovations are done at the right time. You cannot really get much life in a cemetery, can you?’ Ten years later Ron Hayward could have been talking about Labour’s own conferences, purged of dissent, calculated and controlled to the last detail. What he meant as a joke was, under the leadership of Neil Kinnock, to become a reality…”
Benn’s Campaign for Deputy Leader
“Following intensive discussions across the Left, on 3 April Tony Benn declared he would stand for election as deputy leader at the next party conference. To the Left Tony Benn, articulate, experienced and full of conviction, was an automatic standard-bearer. To the Labour Right, he was a standing affront. Former Labour cabinet ministers, backed by the Tory press and the labour-supporting Daily Mirror, queued up to condemn Benn for daring to use the Party’s new democratic machinery.” (The electoral college mentioned in the introduction.) “Few politicians have had to endure the abuse dished out to Benn during the months that followed. Fighting on an unambiguous political platform, he took his campaign to the grass roots of the Labour Party and the trade unions. In every major city in the country he addressed public meetings the size and like of which had not been seen in the labour movement for years. In those months Benn appeared to be everywhere, speaking to audiences big and small, groups of Party and union activists, peace campaigners, striking workers, unemployment marchers. Wherever he went he received an enthusiastic response not only from Party members but also from a substantial swathe of the public which felt bitterly betrayed by the last” (1974-79) “Labour government.
“Benn sought the deputy leadership not as an individual politician offering himself for high office but as the chosen representative of the groundswell of left opinion among Labour’s rank and file. It was because his message found a ready echo at the grass roots that Benn’s campaign took the Labour movement by storm throughout the spring and summer of 1981. Indeed, even though the candidate himself was hospitalised for much of the campaign, it continued unabated, belying the claim that this was simply a one-man band.
“The energy and success of the Benn campaign and the possibility that he would win the election at the Labour conference in October shook the establishment - and not only the Labour establishment – profoundly. At this time Labour was ahead of the Tories in the opinion polls, the prospect of a Labour government under left leadership taking office in the near future seemed a real one to newspaper proprietors, television pundits, City bankers, industrialists, military men and other pillars of the status quo…”
Denis Healey’s Counter-Campaign
(Denis) “Healey and his supporters fought a wretchedly defensive campaign, evading the arguments and relying heavily on media hostility to their opponents. Healey knew that he had no basis of support within the constituency parties and hoped that the trade unions and the payroll vote of Labour MPs would save him. Yet the strength of the Labour left was such that that he felt obliged to respond to its political demands. He declared himself in favour of a Labour government that would ‘carry through a planned socialist programme’. Its first objective would be to ‘restore full employment’ and implement an ‘alternative economic strategy’, which would require ‘real increases in public expenditure’...
“When it did not echo Benn’s rhetoric, the Healey camp was resorting to personal denunciations of him and his supporters. Unwilling to accept that their own failings has spurred the spontaneous growth of a grassroots left wing, Labour’s parliamentary leaders painted the Benn forces as an alien conspiracy which had to be extirpated from the Party. In July 1981, shadow Chancellor Peter Shore denounced Benn’s supporters as people ‘who have joined our ranks not to further the democratic socialist cause but to subvert it… they should be strongly dealt with because there is no room for infiltrators, conspirators and wreckers in the Labour Party’.”
8th August 2016
The Leadership Election and Party Democracy
The High Court has ruled today that the decision of the Labour Party’s NEC to rule out 120,000 – 150,000 members from voting in the leadership election because they joined after Jan 12th is wrong and should be reversed. This is a victory for Party democracy. Unfortunately ‘the Labour Party’ (the NEC, though its members haven’t been consulted) wants to appeal against the decision.
John McDonnell welcomed the ruling and added, “We are appalled by the possibility of an unnecessary and costly appeal. If it is taken forwards, the party will be using members’ money to try to stop members from voting. This is unacceptable.
“I’m calling on Owen Smith to join with us in backing party members and calling on the Labour Party not to appeal and attempt to disenfranchise members.”
Here is a statement from the LRC:
The LRC welcomes the end to the disenfranchisement of 130,000 of Labour’s newest members previously told that they could not vote in this summer’s Party leadership contest. The LRC calls on Labour’s NEC to now restore the voting rights of all Labour Party members and not to appeal the High Court’s ruling.
8th August 2016
Solidarity with the Homerton Workers!
Kick the privateers out of the NHS!
By John Burgess
Below is an all too familiar story of how privatisation ruthlessly exploits workers. The company in this case is ISS a global giant that has benefited under Blair, Brown and Cameron at the expense of the workforce.
For those who have not had the opportunity to represent and organise workers, it is heart breaking to see Terms & Conditions which have been hard won, ripped up after privatisation.
My take on what Jeremy is talking about, is that this ruthless exploitation must end. It is condemning workers and their families into poverty.
For me, Jeremy is saying it is for all of us to take part in this social movement that means in the communities we live. In this case we need to support these workers and condemn the attacks on their jobs. I know that Jeremy would give these workers his backing, not only that he would demand these critical services are brought back into the NHS.
Homerton workers protest over job cut threat from private firm
“The staff say they have been told 89 out of 300 of them could be made redundant and others could have their hours cut.
Jordan Rivera, Unison branch secretary for the hospital, slammed the plans and questioned why the company can no longer run the service on a budget it said it could less than a year ago, when it won the contract.”
Three things you can do to help these workers
1. Send a message of support to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Like and leave a solidarity comment
3. Share with others and encourage them to offer support.
2nd August 2016
Want Labour to win an election? Here’s why not to vote Owen Smith
Michael Calderbank, Secretary Brent Central CLP explains why not
He didn’t speak out against the austerity-lite policies under Ed Miliband
Labour’s manifesto at the 2015 election agreed to further reductions in public spending, and proposed cutting pay in real terms for workers like teachers, nurses and dinner ladies. Labour’s support eroded further, especially in Scotland and the Party’s former industrial heartland seats, but also in key marginals. Smith served in Miliband’s shadow team without raising any criticism of this position, yet appears to be opportunistically rebranding himself as the champion of anti-austerity.
He failed to oppose the scapegoating of benefit claimants
Jeremy Corbyn won widespread support for his refusal - unlike all the other leadership candidates last time round - to vote for the Second Reading of the Welfare Reform Bill. The measures in the Bill were aimed at penalising some of the most vulnerable in society. Smith abstained in the vote, and argued in favour of the benefit cap, and said “we are in favour of limits on what individual families can draw down”. Smith failed to highlight the lavish subsidy to landlords resulting from rocketing housing benefit bills by putting the case for rent controls. Instead, he argued for abitrary spending caps which would punish those on low incomes struggling to pay the rent.
He can’t be trusted to fight the incursion of private finance into the running of the NHS
One of the areas in which Labour currently polls most strongly is over the National Health Service. People understand the dangers that the Tory NHS Reform Act poses in terms of unleashing the profit motive into the running of our cherished public service. But as a lobbyist for giant multinational pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, Smith endorsed a report which advocated “offering NHS patients easier access to private sector healthcare”. As a prospective Labour candidate he welcomed the use of the Private Finance Initiative to build new hospitals, and claimed objections to these disastrous contracts were “ideological” and “overblown”.
He would concede further ground to the far right
Smith criticised Corbyn for having “liberal perspectives” on immigration, and was reported as saying some parts of Britain have “too many immigrants”. How many is “too many”? Is this really the territory we want Labour to be occupying?
His stance on foreign policy is unprincipled and opportunistic
Hardly anyone in the Labour Party has a good word to say about Tony Blair’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq. But whereas Jeremy was a consistent opponent from the outset, Smith previously argued that Labour’s support for military “engagement to remove dictators was a noble, valuable tradition”. Smith later supported the Tory proposal that Britain should impose a no-fly zone on Libya, and in his campaign launch argued we should be proud of having “patriotically intervened around the world to help impose and understand our values across the globe”. Why should we believe that he would refrain from justifying further disastrous wars under the guise of “humanitarian intervention”? As a former member of CND who now countenances the idea of pressing the nuclear button, are there principles which he wouldn’t jettison?
He seems to have a problem with women
As they face Theresa May over the dispatch box, it will be essential for the Labour leader to express sharp political disagreements with the Tory Prime Minister without lapsing into misogynistic or sexist attitudes. Smith’s track record in this respect creates a real cause for concern. The violent reference to wanting to “smash” (May) “back on her heels”, came after an inappropriately jocular reference to domestic violence, and the accusation that Leanne Wood only gets on the media because of her gender, suggests he has a problem with women.
He isn’t a leader who “breaks the mould”
There exists a widespread public distrust of the professional political elite, whose frame of reference is conditioned by their life experience having taken place overwhelmingly within the Westminster bubble. Smith has worked in the media as a political Special Advisor, and was a corporate lobbyist before becoming an ambitious Labour MP. What will make the public believe that that he is any more than just a typical career politician?
A return to the old order under a new leader is the last thing Labour needs. Only by persisting with radical alternatives can Labour regain its popularity. That’s why I’m voting to Keep Corbyn.
30th July 2016
How to Waste £Billions
The Tory cabinet is dithering over the Hinkley contract. No wonder. It has been described as ‘the most expensive object to be built on earth’. Caroline Lucas calls it “the costliest white elephant in British history.”
How did the government get in this bind? The article below reprinted from December 2015 issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC, explains why.
Energy needs are plannable and in the past energy requirements in this country have been provided by publicly owned institutions in a planned manner. That apparatus has been dismantled and energy supply returned to chaos. All the Big Six energy companies responsible for 90% of electricity supply do is bill the customers. They do not regard themselves as being responsible for making sure Britain will have secure energy sources into the future. They rely on the government to put these in place. For their part governments, both Tory and New Labour, have accepted the rule of profit.
The result: the Blair government proposed the Hinkley project in 2006, insisting that all new plants should be privately built and run. It was supposed to start generating electricity in 2017. Now, if Hinkley goes ahead, the earliest electricity could come on stream is 2026.
The guaranteed prices offered to EdF for decades into the future look even more ridiculous since we seem to have a prolonged period of low oil and gas prices ahead of us. Managers within EdF, including the workers’ representative on the board, fear the firm is biting off more than it can chew. Hinkley C is fundamentally unsound.
As the Guardian pointed out it would be better to invest in renewable energy. “Technology for tidal energy that will come from projects like the lagoons at Cardiff and Swansea is maturing. One of the world’s largest proposed wind farms, at Dogger Bank, off the north-east Yorkshire coast, could challenge the output from Hinkley C…Most effectively, an investment of less than £1bn a year in domestic and industrial energy efficiency would halve demand by 2050.”
But for any of these options to be even considered requires that the energy supply be planned. To do that, we must overthrow the rule of profit and start to plan production. That must begin by taking over the Big Six.
Labour Briefing December 2015
It seems the nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point will go ahead at a price of £24bns. That’s not the end of the cost to us. To be on the safe side the Tory government is prepared to guarantee the builders an energy price of £92.50 per megawatt hour, rising along with inflation for 35 years. So electricity consumers will subsidise the plant to the tune of at least a further £4.4bns through their bills.
That’s reckoned to be between £150 and £660 per customer for per year for 35 years. Why such a wide variation in the estimates? Because nobody has the foggiest idea how much electricity will cost in 35 years’ time. The hand-out could be even bigger. Independent environmental thinktank E3G reckons the price guarantee could cost us all £45bns over time.
The guarantee price of £92.50 is twice the current price of energy. The Tory offer only makes sense if oil prices (currently about $45 a barrel) soar to $150 and stay there for ever. Nobody believes that will happen.
EdF – state-owned Electricite de France - is building the power station. This firm is being given the privilege of making super-profits from British energy consumers, while Chinese companies are also barging in on the act. Apparently Britain doesn’t have the engineering expertise to build it. What an indictment of the rundown of British manufacturing, construction and skills!
There are big problems with the project in any case. The European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) model for Hinkley Point is experiencing long delays in France and Finland. The plant is supposed to be built by 2025, but the contract allows the builders to overrun till 2033. So Hinkley Point is not going to help out Britain’s current energy needs any time soon. The Tories say nuclear is a ‘green’ option. Tell that to the people of Chernobyl and Fukushima.
How has the government got itself into this pickle? Over the past few years coal fired power stations and the old generation of nukes have been in the process of being phased out. Everyone knew that this would happen and that they needed replacing. Nobody did anything. As a result there is hardly any excess capacity in the industry, and there is a serious prospect that the lights may go out this winter.
What was needed was forward planning. Energy needs are plannable. Our peak energy requirement, anticipated by the industry, took place in 1990 during the England v West Germany World Cup semi-final. At half time 1m extra kettles went on and an extra 2,800 megawatts of energy were provided. (England lost in a penalty shot-out.)
The reason energy generation is now unplanned is because of the privatisation of the industry. Capitalist politicians like Randolph Churchill in the 1870s knew that capitalists would prosper mightily with the necessary infrastructure. They put in place ‘gas and water socialism’. To begin with the energy industry developed chaotically. By the 1920s there were 70 electricity generating stations in London alone. Gradually the Central Electricity Board rationalised the industry and began the national grid. The work was completed when Labour nationalised 505 generating and supply organisations in 1947 to create a unified industry with a co-ordinated national grid to share energy and plan for peaks. Order out of chaos.
The Tories privatised electricity in 1989. The area electricity boards were captured by private interests, with the instinct to make as much money as possible. Predictably the result was the rise of the Big Six who control more than 90% of energy distribution. EdF is one of the Big Six, with an 11% market share.
Motivated entirely by profit, these firms use their market power to gouge money from consumers and plunge millions, including more than a million households in work, into fuel poverty. They do not invest for the future. Instead, secure in what is effectively their monopoly position, they hold out the begging bowl to the government and squeal for subsidies, as we see. Now EdF has got the main contract for Hinkley Point as well. They are in clover.
The Tories tell us, “We all have to pull in our belts.” Actually they are wasting £billions. They don’t care since it’s our money they’re wasting, not theirs. The fragmentation of the industry and the drive for short term profits make rational planning impossible. 68% of the public think that energy should be in public hands. They are right. It’s high time to take over the Big Six.
23rd July 2016
Affiliated Supporters: Register Now to Vote for Jeremy Corbyn!
Affiliated Supporters (along with Registered Supporters and full Labour Party members) are entitled to vote in the leadership election.
Affiliated Supporters are members of affiliated trade unions or socialist societies.
They are listed :
• You won’t automatically get a vote just because you’re a member of an affiliated organisation.
• You have to fill in the form on the website above to let them know that you exist and want to take part in the leadership election.
• If you took part in the leadership election last year you should be registered already; but check, particularly if you’ve changed address.
• You must be on the electoral register at the address you give.
• You must register on the form above by 8th August 2016.
• If you are a trade unionist and have not contracted out of the political levy you don’t have to pay anything because your trade union pays a political levy to the Labour Party on your behalf.
• You must have been a member of your affiliated organisation on or before January 12th.
• The Co-op Party affiliates to Labour locally, not nationally.
23rd July 2016
Supporting Nominations for Jeremy Corbyn
Nominations for candidates for the leader of the Labour Party must be made by MPs or MEPs. Nominations have now closed. We know that Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith will be on the ballot paper.
• Comrades may have read or heard that all local Labour Party meetings have been cancelled for the duration of the leadership contest. That is not correct. We are entitled to hold meetings for Supporting Nominations for leader and for LP Conference business.
• It is also not the case that these meetings must be confined to General Committee meetings. It is possible to call all member meetings for the purpose of Supporting Nominations for leader. Here’s the official Labour Party guidance:
“Should a CLP decide to make a supporting nomination, they may do so using either an all member meeting or a meeting of the General Committee.”
Obviously all Jeremy Corbyn supporters will want as many members as possible to participate in the debate. An all member meeting is much preferable to a GC for this purpose. Press your Party officers to organise one.
• Some Party officers are trying to organise meetings as quickly as possible in order to involve as few members as they can. This is the usual rule below. Insist that it is carried out:
“Members should receive seven days written notice of the meeting.”
• The guidance for the meetings tries to minimise discussion of the political issues. Be short and sweet:
“Prior to the ballot, a discussion will take place on the qualities of the nominees. This should last for a maximum of 30 minutes, with no member speaking more than once, and for not more than three minutes each.”
• The Chair is supposed to be impartial. If they are a known right winger, who has expressed preferences, they should be challenged:
“The CLP Chair will normally chair the meeting, but it is important that impartiality is seen to be shown from the chair.”
• As with Registered Supporters and Affiliated Supporters, the NEC has disenfranchised any member who joined the Labour Party after January 12th 2016.
• There will be a membership check at any meeting for Supporting Nominations. Be aware.
• The deadline for Supporting Nominations will close at 12.00 noon on Monday, 15 August.
For the complete guidelines,
21st July 2016
Ann Black and the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance Slate for NEC
Statement from LRC Executive Committee
While it may be too late to disrupt the current election of the NEC, in view of her role in disenfranchising members both at the July 19th NEC meeting and in suspending Brighton, Hove & District Labour Party, the LRC gives notice that it will never again support the candidacy of Ann Black for the NEC and calls for her immediate resignation as Chair of the Disputes Panel.
CLARIFICATION: Contrary to some mistaken social media reports, the LRC continues to back the CLGA slate in full for the purposes of the current NEC elections. However, we expect our elected NEC representatives to defend the interests of Party members and democratic rights of CLPs.
21st July 2016
Where we are
Part of a speech at the Labour Briefing Readers’ Meeting held in London on July 19th
By Mike Phipps
We are currently going through the most important political developments since the miners’ strike. Like the miners’ strike, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people are getting active, bringing their real world skills into the struggle. In some ways it’s more significant than the miners’ strike, which could have led to a compromise settlement, had Thatcher not been determined to spend huge sums of money to smash the miners. Today I see no compromise.
People say the PLP have declared war on the membership. But they can’t attack Jeremy Corbyn’s policies, which are popular, so smears are deployed. He lost Labour the EU referendum – even though a recent speech by Peter Mandelson no less lays the blame squarely at the door of New Labour.
He’s a vote loser, despite winning every by-election in this parliament and Labour doing well at the local elections in May. His supporters are anti-Semitic – a smear rejected by the Chakrabarti Report. His supporters are bullies because they marched on Stella Creasey’s house – they didn’t: a peaceful protest left post-it notes on an unstaffed constituency office door. They put a brick though Angela Eagle’s office window – not true. A window in a communal stairwell was found broken. Angela Eagle had to cancel a meeting in a Luton hotel because of security concerns - not so: the hotel cancelled because they didn’t want a political meeting.
Despite these myths, Jeremy Corbyn remains hugely popular. A poll in The Times estimates he would beat any rival by a clear 20 points. 55% of members think he’s doing a good job, up four points in two weeks, while 41% think he’s doing badly, down seven points.
Those challenging him know this – hence their panic. Our opponents know this. They call us “dogs”, and “scum”. This is both a sign of political impotence and a provocation. They want us to respond with similar rhetoric. We must not. We must retain the moral high ground. One reason for Jeremy Corbyn’s continued popularity in the Party is members’ sense of fair play. Many support him simply because he is being unfairly treated and not being given a chance by the PLP. But they do worry about the lengths the bitterites are going to in order to destabilise a leader who was elected less than a year ago by a huge majority.
Why is the right wing being so destructive? For those who think the central battle is between Labour and the Tories, it’s not. It’s a class struggle, and unfortunately the ruling class is inside the Labour Party. The Blairite wing is closer to the Tories than to Jeremy Corbyn and indeed pioneered many of their current policies – austerity, academies, privatisation, etc. It’s doubly deceitful because they don’t come out in their true colours, they hide behind people like Angela Eagle and Owen Smith. But make no mistake – if they won, it would be just like the negative briefings and disloyalty Ed Miliband suffered. The right wing would carry on undermining the leader behind the scenes, willing them to lose the next election so the real Blairites can step forward, just like 25 years ago. Well, not this time.
Three other important points: If you wish, you can see the current struggle as the left versus the right. But there are limitations to this approach. It’s internal. It doesn’t speak to the electorate. It doesn’t even speak to the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people now getting active. Anyway, why ghettoize ourselves? The left is now the mainstream.
We have to reframe the debate. It’s not the left versus the right, it’s the people against the elite, the 99% against the one percent, the citizens, democracy versus oligarchy. We’re not interested in being the left, we’re aiming to take power.
Secondly, the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people now getting active is reminiscent of the level of activism at the time of the miners’ strike or the invasion of Iraq. But it won’t last. It never does. So we, the long-term activists, have to work out not only how we engage with these people. In some ways, the two month closure of the Labour Party’s structures gives us an opportunity to break out of the old routines.
Bur also, how do we make gains now so that when the tide does go back out we have laid lasting foundations for a different party? We have to make some things irreversible. It’s about hegemony – making our opponents fight on our terms. Just as Thatcher said her greatest achievement was Tony Blair and New Labour, so all subsequent political argument took place in a neoliberal economic framework, we too have to exercise lasting hegemony.
If we look up from the week by week crisis, we’ve achieved a huge amount. Labour is an anti-austerity party. Never again will we abstain on welfare cuts. Labour has repudiated the Iraq War. These are big gains.
Lastly, what we are doing is much bigger than Jeremy Corbyn. If he loses, it doesn’t stop. If he wins, the right have promised more destabilisation. The Party could split.
But this is bigger than the Party. It includes the trade unions, community organisations, rising student activism and other campaigns. If we’re going to win back the ‘left behind’ and create the social majority that puts Jeremy Corbyn into Number Ten, we need to harness the resources of our entire movement and renew it with people set on this course.
The long crisis of representation is over. We are building a movement for power and it is irreversible.
19th July 2016
March for Unity – 1976 and 2016
By Barbara Humphries
Forty years ago anger in Southall reached breaking point after a student, Gurdip Singh Chaggar was stabbed to death by a racist thug. This was on June 18th, 1976. It followed a series of attacks on the Asian community. Rising unemployment in the 1970s had led to increasing support for right wing parties such as the National Front, which tried to scapegoat Britain’s black and Asian workers for the country’s economic ills. In the 1960s the forerunner of the National Front, the British National Party had attempted to organise in Southall, getting one third of the vote in a council by-election. This however had ebbed away, as the Asian community established itself in the centre of Southall. Attacks on Asians continued on the fringes of the town, but it was the murder of a student in the town centre of Southall that caused shock and anger. Questions were asked of the local police – were they taking this seriously enough? Angry demonstrations were held. Fearing the consequences the local Trades Council organised within a week, a local peace march through the town. This had the support of trades unions, Southall Labour Party, Sikh and Hindu temples, and churches of all denominations. Under the banner ‘One race the human race’ hundreds of us marched through Southall with much support and enthusiasm from the local community.
Following the EU Referendum result we have seen levels of racist attacks unprecedented in decades. Our multi-ethnic and multicultural community is under threat. The Vote Leave result, far from being an anti-Establishment vote, has seen the Establishment re-assert itself with a vengeance, leaving a trail of racism and xenophobia in its path. There has been a 500% increase in racist attacks. In the London Borough of Hammersmith a Polish cultural centre has been attacked, with graffiti sprayed over the walls. The centre was opened in 1976 and has never before been subject to an attack like this. In other incidents, workers from EU countries have been told to get out and even the local Mayor has been threatened.
In response to this Labour controlled Hammersmith council, led by Steve Cowan organised a Unity March through the town. It was the first news item on the BBC London news on Sunday evening. Hundreds of people marched from Shepherds Bush to Ravenscourt Park. Like the march in Southall in 1976 its message of unity went down well with the local population. In Ravenscourt Park speeches were given by the leader of the council, local MP Andy Slaughter, the mayor and youth mayor, aged fifteen. This was followed by a celebration of multiculturalism with music, dancing and food stalls. To his credit the march was also supported by the leader of the Conservative opposition on Hammersmith council. There was no way however that his party would have organised such a march. In the EU Referendum campaign and in their attacks on Siddiq Khan during the London mayoral election the Tories have tried to divide and rule. This must be defeated by the labour movement and will be as critical in the coming years as it was in 1976.
18th July 2016
Support Centre Left Grassroots Alliance
The Centre Left Grassroots Alliance is supporting Ann Black, Christine Shawcroft, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams, Peter Willsman and Rhea Wolfson for the NEC. Nominations close on 24 June.
CLGA is also supporting:
National Constitutional Committee (NCC) - Chris Williamson
Treasurer - Diana Holland
18th July 2016
Registered Supporters: Urgent:! Sign Up Now!
There are three categories of persons able to take part in the leadership election:
• Labour Party Members
• Affiliated Supporters (members of trade unions or socialist societies affiliated to the Party). We shall be offering a separate advice sheet for these. You should act now to record your status at http://support.labour.org.uk/
• Registered Supporters. This category was created for the first time for the last leadership contest. People had to register their details with the party and pay £3.
There is a very narrow window that provides the ONLY opportunity to vote on the leadership contest. You will have to register between Monday 18th July at 5 pm and Wednesday 20th July at 5 pm and pay £25 to be a registered supporter.
Who can register as a supporter?
• People who registered as a supporter before the last leadership election and paid £3. You don’t need to register again unless details such as your address have changed in the meantime. BUT you will have to pay £25 extra to vote this time.
• Labour Party members who didn’t join till after 12th January 2016. You (130,000 of you) have been disenfranchised by a decision of the National Executive Committee (BOO!). But you can still become a registered supporter by paying £25 on top of the Labour Party membership subscription you’re already paying. You will have to register as well as pay.
If you are in a trade union that is not affiliated to the Party you will have to become a registered supporter if you want to vote in the leadership contest.We understand this includes the entire membership of the Fire Brigades Union, which affiliated after January 12th. If so, this is a disgrace, but members will have to sign up as registered supporters in order to vote.
The Labour Party describes the website below as a hub for all information about the leadership contest. Register here!
You can also call 0345 092 2299.
15th July 2016
The political opinions of big-pharma lobbyist Owen Smith
From Labour Briefing
‘Left-winger’ Owen Smith is so firmly on the Euro-Labour right that he is now calling for a Second Referendum. So what exactly are his real political commitments? When he stood as Labour’s parliamentary candidate in a by-election in 2006, the ambitious politician – previously a senior lobbyist for
pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer – was grilled by Wales On-line’s chief reporter Martin Shipton:
Q: What was your position on the Iraq War?
Answer: “I thought at the time the tradition of the Labour Party and the tradition of left-wing engagement to remove dictators was a noble, valuable tradition…” He ‘didn’t know’ whether he would have voted against the war had he been an MP at the time.
Q: What about austerity and the government’s public spending cuts?
Answer: “I don’t think it’s realistic to say that they are wholly unnecessary… There is a very serious point that we don’t know what would happen to a government that failed to tackle its debts in the long run.”
Q: How do you view the involvement of private companies in the NHS?
Answer: “Where they can bring good ideas, where they can bring valuable services… then I think that’s fine. If their involvement means in any way, shape or form the break up of the NHS, then I’m not a fan of it, but I don’t think it does.”
Q: Do you support Private Finance Initiative schemes?
Answer: “We’ve had PFI in Wales, we’ve had a hospital built down in Baglan through PFI. If PFI works, then let’s do it. What people want to see are more hospitals, better services…. I’m not someone, frankly, who gets terribly wound up about some of the ideological nuances that get read into some of these things, and I think sometimes they are totally overblown.”
Owen Smith is attempting to convince the membership that he stands for the same things as Jeremy does. The problem is that a look at his history shows that he does not. In short, lobbyist Owen Smith:
• Supported the invasion of Iraq (he wasn’t an MP at the time, but past interviews confirm his pro-war stance).
• Abstained on the Tory welfare cap and supported the benefits cap.
• Supports renewing Trident and other weapons of mass destruction.
• Supported NHS PFIs and other private sector involvement.
• Supported Blairite City Academies.
• Previously worked as a lobbyist for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. Pfizer funded Blairite think tank Progress, whose members have been linked to 5 attempted coups against Labour leaders in 7 years.
• Attended an arms trade annual dinner as an invited guest, with tickets at £200-£450 a head.
• John Mann MP reveals that over six months ago, he (Owen Smith) approached him to build support for the present leadership challenge . In other words, Owen and his Progress allies gave Jeremy’s historic mandate just three months before plotting to oust him.
Owen Smith’s true identity as a hawkish Blairite is no left-wing fantasy but is in fact well-known on the political right.
15th July 2016
Leadership Contest: Right Wing Dirty Tricks
By Mick Brooks
The headline news item is one of intense relief among Labour Party members. The National Executive Committee (NEC) decided that Jeremy Corbyn should be automatically on the leadership ballot paper. In fact the bigger picture is one of obstruction and skulduggery aimed at cheating the wishes of Party members.
172 Labour MPs voted no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. The fact that more than a quarter of a million members and supporters voted for him as leader less than a year previously apparently counted for nothing.
The first question is why did the coup plotters act when they did – immediately after the Brexit referendum result? After all, they have been sharpening their knives from day one of Jeremy’s leadership. The short answer was that, as fellow members of the Westminster bubble along with Cameron and co, they complacently assumed that the vote to Remain was in the bag. Confronted with Brexit, a new Tory Prime Minister and the prospect of an immediate general election, they panicked.
What was their strategy? Where would they go if they split the Labour Party? They showed the strategic nous of headless chickens. First the prospect of an imminent election was put to rest as the Tories closed ranks around Theresa May. After Leadsom’s Tory leadership bid self-destructed there was no prospect of a realignment in British politics, with centrist politicians including right wing Labour MPs forming a new pro-EU party against a right wing Eurosceptic Tory Party and Labour led by Corbyn.
But the coup threat continues. Let’s be clear. These bumbling buffoons are doing permanent damage to Labour’s credibility and Labour’s electoral prospects. The NEC’s decision to spin out the contest over months of uncertainty was absurd. The campaign is far too long. The Tories were back in business within a few days. The right wing coup plotters will argue that the delay till September was ‘in the rules’. There is plenty of evidence that the NEC made the rules up as it went along.
The Tories have regrouped. The failed policies of austerity that have dominated the agenda for almost a decade have been thrown out of the window, yet the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) in disarray cannot claim any credit for the U-turn. The Tories and the British political scene are in crisis yet it is the PLP that is in meltdown. What a missed opportunity!
Before the NEC met, deputy leader Tom Watson was in ‘negotiations’ with trade union leaders such as Len McCluskey of Unite. These were strange negotiations since Watson was demanding unconditional surrender and the withdrawal of Corbyn from the selection process before a shot had been fired. Above all, no democracy! This was treachery. McCluskey was incandescent.
At the time of writing there are two alternative candidates to Corbyn – Angela Eagle and Owen Smith. Smith’s ace in the hole is that nobody has ever heard of him or knows what he stands for. This arrangement is absurd, but the PLP will ballot on who should stand against Corbyn. This is yet another constitutional ‘innovation’. There is no precedent for this procedure.
Most of the report on the NEC below is taken from an item in the ‘Huffington Post’, clearly informed by an insider.
The NEC’s first major decision was to take votes in secret. This is unprecedented. It is profoundly undemocratic. Even in parliament our MP’s votes are public, since otherwise we would not be able to hold them to account. Johanna Baxter blubbered on Radio 4’s Today programme that this was to stop ‘bullying’. We are all against bullying. Jeremy has had his share of death threats. But Baxter’s plea was in effect for members such as herself to be voted onto the NEC without anyone knowing what they stand for. Is that democratic? Surely trade unionists are entitled to know that the representative of their union on the NEC actually votes in accordance with union policy?
Next Corbyn, who is an NEC member ex officio, was ordered out of the room and only allowed back when votes were to be taken. How generous of them! As Andy Kerr, Deputy General Secretary of the CWU, noted the NEC was acting against its own rules.
The role of Iain McNicol, General Secretary of the Labour Party, has proved to be controversial and downright sinister. He is supposed to be an unelected neutral ‘civil servant’ to the Party. In fact he appears to have been pulling strings on behalf of the plotters behind the scenes. McNicol, it should be remembered, nominates the members of the unelected Compliance Unit. This body has been running round suspending Party members for indefinite periods without due process on the basis of secret evidence, if indeed there is any evidence against them at all. It is a Court of Star Chamber.
McNicol withheld legal advice from Mike Mansfield QC in the interests of the coup plotters. He has received a devastating indictment from Howe and Co, acting for Jim Kennedy of Unite and other NEC members:
“You may be aware that releasing confidential Labour Party data/ information to the press, in a manner which may prejudice the Party (including the leader for example) may be a potentially serious disciplinary matter…
“When you met with the leader earlier today you did not inform him that you intended to call a special meeting at 2 pm tomorrow. It seems you went to great lengths to conceal your intentions from the leader and the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.”
As Rhea Wolfson pointed out (‘Labour’s NEC: Coup Attempt Latest’ on this website) very important restrictions on voting rights were smuggled in at the end of the marathon NEC session after several members had left. These items were not on the original agenda.
• About 130,000 Labour Party members who had signed up since January 12th were summarily deprived of the right to vote.
• Registered Supporters, who could vote for the leader on payment of £3 last year, now have to stump up an extra £25. Members disenfranchised by the January 12th ruling can also retain their vote by signing up as Registered Supporters (For an extra fee! How cynical). Moreover they all have a very narrow 48 hour window in which to register their support.
WATCH OUT! YOU HAVE TO SIGN UP FROM MONDAY 18TH JULY!
Rhea comments: “This seems like gerrymandering. Jeremy’s opponents are trying to rig the election to get the result they desire.” These rulings are so irregular they are bound to be subject to legal challenge.
Robert Peston agrees. We quote him as he cannot be accused of Corbynista sympathies:
“.....at the end of the meeting, after a couple of pro-Corbyn members had left, and Corbyn himself had gone, a vote was taken on a motion not on the agenda, to exclude from the leadership vote anyone who joined the party in the past six months. So the 130,000 who signed up since Brexit, most of whom are thought to be Corbyn supporters, will be unable to vote. Now whatever you think of Corbyn, this looks and smells like gerrymandering by his opponents.”
After the NEC ruled that Corbyn should be on the ballot, it has received a legal challenge from Michael Foster, who has donated £400,000 to the Party in the past. Who put him up to this, we wonder? Clearly this millionaire thinks he can just buy political parties
The right wing actually shows the greatest contempt for democracy since Edmund Burke described the common people as “the swinish multitude.” ‘Rule or Ruin’ is their motto. Their behaviour has just goaded Unite’s Policy Conference to pass the following resolution:
“Conference welcomes the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader as a reflection of the general mood in the labour movement against austerity. We endorse the union’s support for him.
“However, we condemn the attempts of right-wing Labour MPs, in concert with hostile sections of the media, to destabilise and remove Jeremy from his democratically-elected position despite his overwhelming mandate from party members, affiliated and registered supporters. We believe these attacks are designed to return Labour to a pro-austerity position.
“MPs have not got ‘jobs for life’. They represent their constituency but ultimately they are selected by and accountable to their Constituency Labour Party. To ensure democratic accountability and the rights of party members to select candidates that reflect their views, conference supports the need for mandatory reselection of Labour MPs in each Parliament as essential.
“We also call on Unite to support moves to bring more democracy into policy making by returning powers to the Party Conference.”
The latest news is that Brighton and Hove District Labour Party democratically elected a broadly Corbynist slate of officers on a huge turnout of more than 6,000 members. The NEC responded by suspending the DLP and annulling the results. On what grounds? They won’t say.
Scheduled Party meetings, that the NEC demanded be cancelled till the leadership campaign is over for no good reason, are going ahead anyway. There is fury in the Party ranks at all these blatant stitch-ups. The battle for Labour Party democracy goes on.
14th July 2016
Labour’s NEC: Coup Attempt Latest
By Rhea Wolfson:
Yesterday we witnessed the newest stage of the Labour Party coup. First they thought they could publicly bully Jeremy into resigning. Then they thought they could defeat him in an honest leadership election. Finally, with no sign that Jeremy will give up nor that the membership will turn against him, they have resorted to even more underhand tactics. The bureaucracy teamed up with the Westminster corridor coupsters to rig the upcoming leadership election against Jeremy.
Their main goal – keeping Jeremy off the ballot – was thankfully thwarted. But some of the outcomes of the meeting are very worrying. And unsurprisingly, the decisions were reached in suspicious circumstances. Two rules have been introduced to govern the leadership election.
The first is a ‘freeze date’ on new members. This will mean that anyone who joined the party since January 12th will be unable to vote. This will cut out the 129,000 people who have joined during the fastest period of growth in the party’s history. It also reneges on the commitment on our website that members are “eligible to vote in leadership elections”. This might turn out to be a breach of legal contract.
The second rule change concerns ‘registered supporters’: quasi-members with the right to vote in leadership elections. Last year this status cost £3, this year the NEC have hiked the price to an eye-watering £25. For many, this is more than full party membership. It creates a two-tiered system for party democracy with one rule for those with money, and one rule for everyone else. If you joined the Party since January your vote has just been taken off you. Unless, of course, you can afford to buy it back.
How did this happen? What led to these exclusionary decisions?
Unlike the decision to have Jeremy put automatically on the ballot, which was the result of much discussion and deliberation, these proposals were rushed through at the end of an already over-running meeting. Fourteen votes were cast in favour – the same number as voted against Jeremy being on the ballot. These fourteen would have been a minority for much of the meeting. But the proposals were never on the agenda, and were only tabled after other committee members had left. Through these underhand means, the minority were able to push through their proposals.
This seems like gerrymandering. Jeremy’s opponents are trying to rig the election to get the result they desire.
However, I am beginning to see how they have been being driven to this. It is beyond obvious that in a fair fight with Angela Eagle, Jeremy would be returned the resounding victor. This is not a criticism of Angela personally – she always comes across as a sincere politician – but of the wider politics behind her candidacy. Her launch event gave no indications of the political ideas and principles that motivate her, and no suggestions for the direction that she would take the party, much less any specific policies. This is no surprise: her politics, and those of much of the Parliamentary Labour Party, are dead and the dead don’t speak.
Centre-left parties across the Western world are at crisis point, either we adapt to the 21st century or we perish. Our political arena features forces which did not exist ten years ago: a hegemonic SNP, an insurgent UKIP, and widespread support for grassroots movements like those that Jeremy has dedicated his life to supporting. These forces are responses to globalisation, the changing nature of work, and the global financial crisis. Before Jeremy was elected, the Labour Party showed no sign of being able to respond to any of these. But now we are. Our party is growing, it is becoming embedded in social movements and it is reconnecting with the communities we represent. By contrast, Eagle’s leadership bid is politically empty because it has no answers to these questions. Given this, is it any surprise that it attracted so little interest from members, voters and commentators alike?
The undemocratic shenanigans on the NEC are the last cry of a dinosaur unable to adapt to a new world. These political forces are close to extinction so they have nothing to lose. They can break the rules, trash the party in public view, and drive the membership away. Anything is better than conceding control of the Labour Party to the new politics.
We now face a leadership election, only 10 months after the last. Members will have a genuine choice: the new politics of Jeremy Corbyn and the movement behind him, or the old politics of the Westminster bubble. But to those conspiring against democracy, I have one final question: if you do not have the confidence to face your own members, what hope do you have of convincing the electorate?
From Labour List
12th July 2016
The Coronation of Theresa May
By Mike Phipps
Febrile times. Young people no longer talking to their parents, accentuated divisions between urbanites and those outside the big cities and worst of all: a 500% reported spike in racist incidents in the first week after the EU Referendum, which apparently has now “stabilised” at a 50% increase.
The politicians who stirred up these passions have quickly vacated the political stage. Nigel Farage has gone as UKIP leader, Boris Johnson ran away from the Tory leadership race and now Angela Leadsom has also fled the contest. The carelessness with which they lied about migrants being responsible for everything from the housing crisis to sexual assaults has been matched by a collective cowardice to deal with the mess they created.
Now Theresa May gets an early coronation - and a great deal of free, positive publicity from all wings of the mainstream media, about her alleged bravery, competence, tenacity, moral vision, one-nation values, sisterhood and willingness to listen. But it’s worth remembering that less than a year ago she made a speech at Tory Party Conference that was summarised, not by The Guardian, but the Daily Telegraph, as: “Immigrants are stealing your job, making you poorer and ruining your country. Never mind the facts, just feel angry at foreigners. And make me Conservative leader.”
In a recent Comment piece in The Times, lawyer Miriam González notes that Theresa May claims she can unite not just the Tory Party but the country. “But the first step she took in her campaign to run the country could not have been more divisive, suggesting she would use the presence of EU nationals in the UK as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations.”
There has been plenty of media analysis contrasting May’s campaign commitments with her actual record, for example Likewise there have been many attempts to read between the lines of her campaign speeches to determine what she might actually do in office. The Independent’s John Rentoul, for instance, detects a rejection of Osbornomics in her views on monetary policy.
The details of Austerity may change but if the markets rallied at the prospect of May taking over it’s because they see the speedy settlement of the Tory leadership contest as an opportunity to push forward an aggressively neoliberal agenda. This was clear from the post-Brexit statement of the Centre for Policy Studies, which hailed “a unique political opportunity to drive through a wide ranging supply-side revolution on a scale similar to that of the 1980s. This must include removing unnecessary regulatory burdens on businesses, such as those related to climate directives and investment fund regulations.”
Labour Party socialists will feel a little queasy that the Tories appear to be uniting behind May while our Party’s divisions seem set only to intensify. But three things should be borne in mind. Firstly, Theresa May supported, albeit in a low-key way, the Remain campaign, so her ascendancy will not automatically overcome the internal
divisions in the Tory Party, which are likely to resurface once the detailed negotiation on Brexit begins.
Secondly, she’s media-shy. All the praise about quiet competence cannot mask the fact that a discomfort with the necessity to present oneself as a public commodity is a huge failing - as Gordon Brown’s premiership demonstrated.
Thirdly, she’s cautious, so, notwithstanding the advice of colleagues, she may be unlikely to rush into an early election. Of course, we welcome the opportunity to challenge the Tories at the polls and Jon Trickett, Labour’s campaigns and elections chair, was right to put the Party on a war footing to prepare for this. Furthermore, the slimness of the Tory parliamentary majority still makes a general election before 2020 more likely than not. But if there is not a rush to the polls this autumn, this gives us a bit more time not only to consolidate but also to put in place some candidates who accurately reflect the majority feeling within the Party at present.
12th July 2016
Labour Briefing Readers’ Meeting
Preparing for Power
Tuesday July 19, from 6.00 pm.
Floor 2, Dept of Anthropology,
14 Taviton Street, off Gordon Square, London WC1 6BT
All Labour Party members and supporters are welcome to this Labour Briefing readers’ discussion meeting.
This is an important opportunity in the context of a Labour leadership contest and of the political uncertainty facing the country. What do we in the Labour left want from a Corbyn government? How do we get that government elected? How should we support Jeremy at the present time? And how do we oppose the Tories and their ongoing attacks?
10th July 2016
Angela Eagle’s voting record
From Labour Briefing
In any upcoming leadership contest, Angela Eagle’s supporters will doubtless claim that she represents the working class, the poor and the vulnerable. Eagle, they will claim, is the left-wing candidate who can unite all wings of our Party.
Eagle was elected to Parliament in 1992 and so has an extensive political record. Comrades might wish to consider this record before casting their vote:
• In March 2003, Angela Eagle voted for the invasion of Iraq, which led to the deaths of approximately 500,000 people, according to the latest survey.
• According to the They Work For You website, she has ‘consistently voted against an investigation into the Iraq war’.
• Eagle supports the retention of Trident nuclear weapons.
• In September 2014 she voted in favour of air strikes on Islamic State in Iraq.
• In December 2015 she voted in favour of air strikes on Islamic State in Syria.
• According to the They Work For You website, she has ‘generally voted for a stricter asylum system.’
• According to the same website, in January and March 2004 she ‘voted in favour of university tuition fees increasing from £1125 per year to up to £3000 per year’.
• Eagle supported the introduction of ID cards.
• In 2006 she supported the Blair government’s plan to detain terrorism suspects for up to 90 days without charge.
• In March 2013 she abstained on the vote about the coalition government’s workfare programme, the scheme in which people on Jobseekers Allowance are forced to carry out unpaid work in order to keep receiving their benefits.
• In July 2015, Eagle abstained on the vote for the Welfare Bill, which proposed to cut tax credits, reduce the benefit cap to £20,000 (£23,000 in London) and called for £12bn more cuts. According to the government’s own figures, over 300,000 poor children will be pushed further into poverty, with 40,000 more children sinking below the poverty line, as a result of the benefit cap. Child Poverty - Action Group noted ‘the majority of households affected by the benefit cap are lone-parent households and the main victims are children’.
• She supports the expansion of Heathrow Airport.
10th July 2016
Challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership
By Mick Brooks
Angela Eagle has confirmed that she will stand as Labour’s leader against Corbyn.
Last September Jeremy was elected by a vote of 59.5% of the membership, with a record number of individuals voting for him personally as leader. Since that time we have seen non-stop grumbling and plotting by the bad losers in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). First they were going to oust him after a bad result at the Oldham by-election. It was a good result for Labour. Then they were going to plunge in the knife after bad local election results. Outside Scotland our vote held up well in May.
Now we are briefed by anonymous sources within the PLP that the victory of the ‘Out’ vote in the European Union (EU) Referendum shows that Jeremy can’t cut the mustard. This is pathetic and, as John McDonnell points out, (see John McDonnell on the leadership battle) entirely political.
In the first place the Referendum was not a General Election that tests party allegiances. The whole point of a referendum is that it gives a result on a single issue which cuts across party politics.
There were very sound reasons why socialists might vote for ‘Out’. The thuggish behaviour of the EU authorities towards the Syriza government in Greece fighting austerity was one such reason. The secret negotiations to impose TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), which allows big business to sue countries for damages when their elected governments take decisions affecting their profits, is another. The increasing neoliberal drift of EU institutions is a third reason.
In the end the main trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party decided that their members’ interests were on balance defended better by advocating an ‘In’ vote. Jeremy followed suit. He was well aware that he could not portray Britain’s membership of the EU as perfect. Put bluntly, you cannot win a referendum result by lying to people. They will find you out.
Yet this seems to have been the approach favoured by the majority of the PLP. They also reflected the attitude of their Tory counterparts among the elite in the Westminster bubble that the vote was ‘in the bag’, at least till panic gripped them in the last two weeks of campaigning.
What triggered this latest challenge to Corbyn’s leadership was, of course, fear of losing their Parliamentary seats in the wake of the vote for Brexit. They are moving against Jeremy yet THERE IS NO CLEAR CHARGE SHEET AGAINST HIM.
He is accused of being insufficiently enthusiastic about the pro-EU campaign. Here is a different view. “Jeremy is up and down the country, pursuing an itinerary that would make a 25 year old tired. He has not stopped.” Thus spake Angela Eagle less than three weeks ago.
Secondly MPs like Tristram Hunt have complained that nobody in their constituency knew what Labour’s position was. The remedy was in their hands. They could have told the voters. Tristram Hunt seems instead to have hidden in an attic for the duration of the campaign, and then screamed blue murder against Jeremy when the result came in. He may have been more active than that, but if so he was remarkably ineffective. Stoke on Trent voted 69.4% for ‘Out’ and only 30.6% for ‘In’, one of the most Eurosceptic results in the country.
Similar votes can be seen in the constituencies of other uncritical Euro-enthusiasts among labour MPs. Most extraordinarily, John Mann and Frank Field have also recorded their lack of confidence in Corbyn’s leadership. Yet they both campaigned for Brexit!
Likewise John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn were right to insist there be no common platform to campaign for ‘In’ with the Tories, unlike some other Labour politicians. In 2014 Alistair Darling campaigned jointly with the Tories against Scottish independence under the slogan ‘Better Together’. This was seen by working class Scots as ‘Better Together with the Tories’. The result was a meltdown in Labour’s vote in Scotland, retaining only one Parliamentary seat in 2015. Labour had held 41 out of 59 Scottish MPs in the2010 election.
The broader picture is that, in the EU Referendum across the country, roughly two thirds of Labour (and SNP) voters opted for ‘In’ as against about 40% of Tories.
The PLP’s revolt began with organised resignations from the Shadow Cabinet. Clearly this was a conspiracy. Then 172 MPs voted ‘no confidence’ in Corbyn, with only 40 against. As Jeremy’s supporters have pointed out, this vote has no constitutional significance. We are reminded of Brecht’s poem, written in the wake of the rising in East Germany in 1953:
After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
Len McCluskey, head of the Unite union, called the whole thing “an unedifying coup” and the “political lynching of a decent man.” Apart from the sheer treachery, the political stupidity of launching a coup attempt, causing turmoil within Labour ranks while the Tories were stabbing each other in the back, is breathtaking.
The most outrageous suggestion coming from Corbyn’s critics is that, unless he can get nominations from 20% of the PLP, he should not even appear on the ballot paper. Since Jeremy is clearly ‘the people’s choice’, just don’t give the people the option of voting for him!
The constitutional position is unclear as to whether the democratically elected leader should be automatically on the ballot paper. The Collins Report (opposed by the LRC but overwhelmingly accepted at a Special Conference in 2014) muddies the waters. Legal advice is contradictory. In any case the democratic rights of members in a mass working party should not be decided by lawyers.
The moral position is crystal clear. Any attempt to manoeuvre Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot paper would be a squalid and despicable stroke. Since the right wing seems to be united behind Angela Eagle as their candidate, the result would not be an election, but a coronation with only one candidate on the ballot paper.
McCluskey warns that, if members are denied the right to vote for Jeremy, a split within the Party is a serious prospect. This could have devastating consequences for Labour’s electoral prospects. But what do the plotters care about that, compared with the furtherance of their precious careers?
The present situation within the Party is described by Jeremy’s critics as an ‘impasse’. This is a strange expression to use when one set of people has won a leadership contest and another has lost. We have every confidence that, in the event of another leadership contest, Jeremy Corbyn will win resoundingly once more. Moreover we will strive might and main to make it a reality,
7th July 2016
A section from the Chilcot Report:
Post-Saddam Hussein oil contracts
850. During October and November 2002, UK oil companies expressed concern to the Government about securing future oil contracts in Iraq.
851. Sir David Manning raised the issue with Dr Rice in early December.
852. An oil industry representative called on Mr Chaplin on 2 October, warning that “by sticking to the rules over Iraq and not going for post-sanctions contracts”, major UK oil companies would lose out. He was concerned that some other countries would sell their support for US policy for a guarantee that existing deals with the Iraqi regime would be honoured. Mr Chaplin explained that the FCO was “seized of the issue” and “determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies”.
853. On 25 October, Mr Brenton reported a conversation with Vice President Cheney’s office, in which he had been told that Mr Cheney was about to discuss Iraqi oil contracts with Mr Yevgeny Primakov, the former Russian Prime Minister. Mr Brenton was advised that Mr Primakov would be told the “bids of those countries which co-operated with the US over Iraq would be looked at more sympathetically than those which did not”.
854. UK companies’ concerns persisted. Representatives of BP, Shell and British Gas discussed the issue with Baroness Symons on 31 October. Baroness Symons reported to Mr Straw that she had said:
“… we could not make any definitive undertakings, given our determination that any action in relation to Iraq is prompted by our concerns over WMD, and not a desire for commercial gains.
“However, I undertook to draw this issue to your attention as a matter of urgency. They were genuinely convinced that deals were being struck and that British interests are being left to one side.”
855. BP raised its concerns with Mr Brenton in Washington the same day.
856. On 6 November, the FCO hosted a presentation on Iraqi energy given by a team from BP. The presentation spelt out Iraq’s importance to oil companies: it had the second largest proven oil reserves in the world and “unique ‘yet to find’ potential”, but the oil industry was “a mess” and had to run fast to stand still.
857. The record of the seminar was sent to Mr Powell and Sir David Manning as evidence of why Iraq was so important to BP.
858. Mr Powell sent it to Mr Blair, who asked: “but what do we do about it?”
859. BP called on Mr Brenton in Washington again on 11 November. Sir Christopher Meyer told Sir David Manning that UK oil companies had been told by the Embassy that “US motivation as regards Iraq parallels our own: this is a matter of national security, not oil … Nevertheless, the rumours persist.”
860. Sir Christopher continued:
“We have seen a report from our team at CENTCOM which suggests that the Pentagon has already awarded a contract to Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Haliburton, to restore the Iraqi oil industry to production levels of 3m bpd [barrels per day]. (Haliburton is of course, the company of which Cheney was previously chairman). We have so far been unable to obtain collateral for this from the Administration, and it might well in any case amount to no more than prudent contingency planning to stabilise Iraqi oil facilities if Saddam attempts to damage them in a conflict.
“Either way, there is clearly an issue here which we need to tackle. Raising it in an effective way with the Administration is a delicate matter. My view remains that the only realistic way in to this is via a PM intervention with Bush … The points to make would be:
• Once Saddam has been disarmed … Iraq’s oil industry will be central to…economic recovery.
• We, as you, have energy majors who have skills and resources to help…
• To give the lie to suggestions that this campaign is all about oil, it is vitally important that, once sanctions are lifted, there is seen to be a level playing field for all companies to work in Iraq.”
861. Sir Christopher advised that this was the least the UK should do. He had been advised by Mr James A Baker III, the former US Secretary of State, to put down a marker with the Administration fast.
862. Sir David Manning raised oil and gas contracts with Dr Rice in Washington on 9 December. He hoped UK energy companies “would be treated fairly and not overlooked if Saddam left the scene”. Dr Rice commented that it would be particularly unjust if companies that had observed sanctions since 1991, a category which included UK companies, were not among the beneficiaries of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
863. UK and US policies on Iraqi oil and efforts to secure contracts for UK companies hoping to do business in Iraq are described in Section 6.5.
4th July 2016
Whose Party is this Anyway?
Does the Labour Party belong to the hundreds of thousands of activists, members, supporters and affiliated trades unionists across the country? Or is it the property of politicians in Westminster?
Labour MPs would not have been elected without the efforts of ordinary members, trudging through the streets in the rain to deliver leaflets, putting the Party’s case across on the doorstep, organising in communities, and paying their regular subcriptions.
Jeremy Corbyn was elected with a huge democratic mandate, achieving a clear majority of Party members, as well as attracting a huge number of new or returning registered supporters to the fold.
Some right-wing MPs have never been reconciled to this democratic choice, and are now asking the Parliamentary Labour Party to overthrow the members’ choice without even consulting us. But if the Labour Party were ever to be taken out of the hands of its members, its very existence would be called into question.
The governance of the country is at a critical moment, as the shape of the post-Brexit negotiations becomes clear. The future living standards of our people are at stake. At a time when the Tories are rudderless and utterly split, Labour should be uniting behind Jeremy Corbyn to ensure that we defeat any attacks on workers’ rights, environmental protections or increased racism and xenophobia.
We call on Labour MPs to reject any self-indulgent and divisive moves against the Party’s choice of leader. This is OUR party and we have full confidence in Jeremy Corbyn
Please email and tweet your Labour MP t #BackCorbyn.
4th July 2016
John McDonnell on the leadership battle
This talk was given by John McDonnell on Wednesday 29 June at a Stand Up for Labour event in the George IV pub in Chiswick, West London. The transcript has been lightly edited to account for the difference between spoken and written language but the content is unchanged.
Let me just tell you where we’re at at the moment because it’s important that you know. I just want to go back a short while, I won’t keep you long.
When Jeremy got elected last year he got elected on 59.5% of the vote – the highest mandate that any political leader of this country has ever received from their own membership. It was overwhelming in individual members, the affiliated group and also the new supporters. In every category he won.
When we got back to Parliament he tried, in his own quiet way (I’ve known Jeremy 35/40 years and he’s one of the most caring, compassionate people I’ve met), to work with people, put them together. He created a Shadow Cabinet of left, right and centre, he tried to hold it together. And when he did that he tried to work with the Parliamentary Labour Party all the way through. But there’s been a group within the PLP who consistently refused to accept his democratic mandate and consistently undermined him in every way they possibly could. To be frank, I don’t know how he’s borne it. I’m just so proud of him, to be honest, for what he’s done.
We knew at that time, that for some time they were plotting to see if they could have a coup at some stage. We knew that. We knew all the way along. The thing about it is they’re not particularly good at it. We had people in meetings where they were discussing who would be the candidate they would run etc. And so we got intelligence on a regular basis.
False arguments about electability
And their first attempt was the Oldham by-election. What they tried to say was “It’s not political this, it’s not his policies we disagree with, it’s the fact that he can’t win elections”. So the Oldham by-election was the first test. If he had lost the Oldham by-election that might have been the opportunity for some form of coup or to start the first stages. We went to Oldham. Jim McMahon was a fantastic candidate but what we got was the best of both worlds: a good local candidate and the Corbyn supporters enthusiasm. And we has a massive victory in Oldham. So they backed off.
So the next one was going to be the local government elections. That was the excuse for the next plot. We got to the local government elections and they said again “You can’t win an election with Corbyn” etc. We won every mayoral election we contested, every one. We won the seats in terms of local government, councils we were expected to lose, we won every one.
We reached in our first six months the highest level of support that Ed Miliband got all through his term of office. Now that was not something that we thought was wonderful but it was better than anyone thought possible. And in every Parliamentary by-election that’s taken place, we’ve increased our majorities on every occasion.
When Jeremy took over as leader in September we were fourteen points behind in the opinion polls. We are now ahead of the Tories in the opinion polls this week even post-Brexit. And here’s the irony, it’s just extraordinary, on Monday the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting was one of the most disgraceful meetings I’ve ever attended. It was like a lynching without the rope. It was appalling. MP after MP got up calling on Jeremy to resign: “We can’t win elections under you”. And here’s the irony, the first item on the agenda was to welcome the new Labour MP for Tooting who had doubled Labour’s majority.
I don’t accept that this is about Jeremy not being able to win elections. I know how tough it’s going to be to defeat the Tories but also we know that we’ve been building a solid base of support. Why? Because we’ve changed the political direction of this party within nine months. When we went into the last election we were austerity-lite. We had voted for tuition fees, we had voted for wars in Iraq, and all the rest of it. We transformed ourselves. We’re now an anti-austerity party, we’re now in favour of scrapping tuition fees, we’re in favour of building council houses again, we favour trade union rights and also, in the week before Chilcott is published, under Jeremy Corbyn we are now a party that will never again go on a military adventure that cost 500,000 lives as happened in Iraq under Blair. Never again.
That’s why they’re coming for Jeremy. This isn’t about electability. This is about policy and politics. They told us that it was about the European referendum, because he hadn’t done enough.
The referendum campaign
So let me just explain what happened on that because I’m gutted that we lost it. I’m sad that we lost it. But what happened way back in September was that Jeremy and I met with Angela Eagle and Hilary Benn and they said they wanted to run the European campaign and we said “fine”. But at that point in time we said that we need to agree the politics of this. We said that we can’t just go out there as simple Europhiles because, to be frank, there was a need for reform in Europe. And at that point in time they were trying to argue that we should unanimously support Cameron’s deal in Europe. We refused.
So we said “get on with the campaign and call us in when you need us, we will do all that we can to support”. Jeremy toured round this country – the stamina of the man is unbelievable. Thousands of miles, meeting after meeting. Both of us spoke in virtually every major city in the country. But we campaigned on the basis of ‘remain but reform’. And that is where most of the British population are. They agree that there needs to be reform. It was no use going out there just arguing that the European Union was perfect. It was remain and reform.
We also said, to be frank, as soon as you start appearing on platforms with Tories Farage and Boris Johnson ironically will call you “the establishment”. And that’s exactly what happened in Scotland and that is exactly what happened in Northern cities in particular across this country. So we believed that the tactics of the campaign were wrong. Nevertheless we worked really hard. But when the result came out they wanted a scapegoat, they wanted to blame Jeremy. They wanted to use this as the excuse for the coup.
The plot unfolds
And what happened I’ll briefly tell you. On Saturday night last Jeremy was contacted by a sympathetic journalist. He had been briefed that Hilary Benn was going round the Shadow Cabinet urging people to urge Jeremy to stand down or threaten resignation. When Jeremy contacted him and asked if it was true. Would he be happy for a statement to be put out saying it was an error or that Hilary withdraw from his actions. He refused. What else could he do but ask him to stand down? There was no other option.
What we then discovered, because they just leak like I don’t know what, was that there was a plan that what would happen is group after group of individuals, front benchers, would resign, in batches. Because it was to destabilise. It was on the basis that one group resigned, fine we could accommodate that, settle down for a few hours and then another group would resign. It went on like that.
So what Jeremy had to do was to put together another Shadow Cabinet and that’s what we’ve done. And we’ve brought in, yes, lots of the new young people into the Shadow Cabinet. I tell you, listening to some of their speeches this week has been thrilling and they are the heroes and heroines of this movement.
Finally, let me just say where we’re at now because we’re getting to the point where it becomes farcical. What they did, to try and divide me and Jeremy, they briefed the media that I was trying to challenge him. And today Tom Watson has given an interview saying its John MacDonnell who’s forcing him to stay. You can’t have it both ways.
So what I’ve said today is, straightforwardly, if Jeremy wants to remain the leader of the Labour Party I will support him wholeheartedly, I will chair his campaign committee again. It’s his decision and he’s made that decision. He’s staying.
I think this is a tragedy what’s going on now. At a time when, to be frank, our country’s facing some of the severest economic problems we’ve had in a generation as a result of the referendum, when the Tories are in disarray and this is virtually no government there whatsoever, this is the time the Labour Party should have held together and stepped up its campaigning. Parliamentary pomposity this is not. This is not just for the sake of the Party. It’s for the sake of our country and the people we represent because they’re the ones that will be hit the hardest as a result of this result from the European referendum and the economic instability.
What we’ve said is Jeremy is staying. If someone wants to challenge him fine. I spoke to Tom Watson and said if a candidate comes forward let’s have a democratic election of the leader but let’s do it as comrades, as friends, it doesn’t have to be like this. We should be able to act amicably in this party and not in the way that people have treated Jeremy in the Parliamentary Labour Party.
They’re falling out among themselves as to who should be the candidate. It looks as though Angela Eagle, we’re told by the BBC, will announce she will become a candidate tomorrow. Fine, fine. I’ve said we will convene an urgent NEC, have a short leadership campaign timetable in order to match the Tories and get our leader in place so that we can then challenge the Tories and if there is a general election then we’re ready to go with the leader.
Debate as comrades and hold together
But, above all else, now at the moment, what we need people to do, whichever position they come from, is just to hold together in the party, just basically to treat each other with some common decency.
So where we’re at at the moment is that we think there will be a candidate coming forward tomorrow, the NEC will set up the timetable for the leadership election and we’ll have what we’ve always wanted really, a democratic debate. Jeremy will stand again and tour round the country setting out his policies and we’ll hope that he gets re-elected.
We’d welcome it, if you’re not a member of the Labour Party at the moment we need you to join. If you are a member of the Labour Party let me just say this. What we’re witnessing at the moment is a very British coup. If we don’t face this down what will be the point of being a Labour Party member, voting for a leader that you want and then having the Labour Party MPs exercise a veto. That is unacceptable.
There has been a recent modern invention by the Greeks. It’s called democracy. What we’re standing for in this period now is democracy in the Party – the ability of rank and file members of the Labour Party to choose the leader that they want and the policies that they want. And if we lost that, if we allow this coup to destroy Jeremy Corbyn, they destroy our Party. I am not going to allow that to happen and I hope that you don’t. So I’m urging you, pleading with you now, as we go through this period, let’s be comradely to whoever comes forward in the other campaign and let’s stand firm in the interests of democracy. And I appeal to you to support the person who actually did get democratically elected nine months ago, who transformed our policies into becoming a socialist party once again, and right the way round the country gave people hope of a new form of politics, caring and compassionate but socialist above all else.
So I say to you if this election comes, stand with me and support Jeremy Corbyn.
1st July 2016
Shami Chakrabarti has written a good, balanced report, salutes the anti-racist history of the Labour Party and makes some detailed amendments to the Party rule book, says Mike Phipps, who highlights some of the findings.
1. “This Report is mine, and mine alone.” This is reassuring to those who were concerned about the involvement of Baroness Royall, who in an earlier report, recommended that the Jewish Labour Movement (formerly Paol Zion, a strongly pro-Israel grouping in the Party) be involved in training student Labour Club officers on anti-Semitism.
2. “There is not, and cannot be, any hierarchy of racism.” Chakrabarti says: “It is incredibly important that whilst individual testimonies are acknowledged, universal principles are then applied. So for example Islamophobia, antisemitism and Afriphobia are all equally vile forms of racism. No competition for victimhood is required or should be encouraged.”
3. The Labour Party is the natural home for migrants. “It seems completely right and natural that the Labour Party has been the instinctive political home to generations of migrants to the UK including my own parents.”
4. Racist epithets, the word “Zio”, racial and religious stereotyping have no place in the Labour Party. Incendiary language has no place, for example, “to compare the actions of Jewish people or institutions anywhere in the world to those of Hitler or the Nazis or to the perpetration of the Holocaust.”
5. “Labour members should be free and positively encouraged to criticise injustice and abuse wherever they find it, including in the Middle East.”
6. “I recommend the drawing up, and adoption of, a readily accessible complaints procedure.” Further: “It is completely unfair, unacceptable and a breach of Data Protection law that anyone should have found out about being the subject to an investigation or their suspension by way of the media.” And: “The Labour Party should seek to uphold the strongest principles of natural justice, however difficult the circumstances, and to resist subjecting members to a trial by media.” And: “I do not subscribe to the view that every allegation of misconduct within the Party is a factional mischief, but nor do I feel that every investigation warrants immediate publicity (a punishment in itself), nor administrative suspension (with the inevitable shame and opprobrium that is likely to follow) - even if the allegation has attracted public controversy.”
7. “I find it regrettable, to say the least, that some subjects of recent suspension and disciplinary process, under the Party’s disciplinary procedures, found out about their suspensions and investigations as a result of media reporting rather than notice from the Party itself. Staff or elected officials should never feel it necessary (even during a pre-election media frenzy) - to operate a presumption of suspension. If anything, the presumption should be against interim suspension.” And: “Indeed, if the principle of proportionality had been properly applied in recent times, I query whether so many people would ever have been suspended at all.”
8. When a disciplinary measure is taken, there should be a right of review. There should also be a time limit on bringing disciplinary charges in relation to uncomradely conduct and behaviour.
9. “It is not my view that narrow anti-racism training programmes are what is required.” Broad-based educational programmes are recommended, in conjunction with the trade unions and others. But “there should be specific training for all staff and members involved in the investigations and disciplinary process.”
10. There should be limits to how long parties can be put in special measures and run from the centre. “I recommend that the NEC gives urgent attention to any parts of the country that have been under “special measures” for more than six months” and “I recommend that going forward, no Labour Party unit in any part of the country should be subject to such a regime of executive control for more than six months without review by the NEC.”
Summary of key recommendations:
“1. Epithets such as “Paki”, “Zio” and others should have no place in Labour Party discourse going forward.
2. Critical and abusive reference to any particular person or group based on actual or perceived physical characteristics cannot be tolerated.
3. Racial or religious tropes and stereotypes about any group of people should have no place in our modern Labour Party.
4. Labour members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular.
5. Excuse for, denial, approval or minimisation of the Holocaust and attempts to blur responsibility for it have no place in the Labour Party.
6. Beliefs out-with the Labour Party’s values are not to be protected when considering whether a member has acted in a way which is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the party.
7. The Code of Conduct approved in May 2016 should be amended so as to comprehensively rule out all forms of prejudice, but in the light of this and the guidance in my Report, I do not find other substantive (as opposed to procedural) rule changes to be strictly necessary.
8. I recommend procedural rule changes (a draft is annexed to this Report) to improve the Party’s disciplinary process (as well as a wider review of the relevant provisions of the rules and procedural guidelines in the light of those recommendations) and the adoption and publication of a complaints procedure. 28
9. I recommend the appointment of a General Counsel to the Labour Party and additional and appropriately expert staff.
10. I recommend that the power of interim suspension be vested in the NCC and give guidance as to how it might be exercised more proportionately.
11. I recommend the appointment of a Legal Panel of volunteer lawyers of standing so as to assist the NCC in its functions and to provide a review on procedural and proportionality grounds in cases of suspension or expulsion from the Party.
12. I recommend consideration of a greater range of NCC sanctions short of suspension and expulsion.
13. I do not recommend lifetime bans from the Labour Party and recommend time limits on the bringing of disciplinary charges.
14. Once my Report is disseminated and so as to give members an opportunity to be guided by it, I recommend a moratorium on triggering new investigations into matters of relevant language and conduct arising before publication. This in no way effects investigations and disciplinary proceedings already in train.
15. I recommend the formation of an NEC working group into comprehensive education and training needs across the Party with a view to partnership with Trade Unions and Higher Education providers. Staff and members involved in the new disciplinary process should receive appropriate training.
16. I recommend a review of the Party’s Equal Opportunities Policies with a view to adopting an over-arching Equal Opportunities Policy.
17. I recommend better dissemination and explanation of the Party’s Rule Book.
18. I recommend that the NEC gives urgent attention to any parts of the country that have been under “special measures” for more than six months.
19. I recommend that no part of the Party should be subject to “special measures” for more than six months without NEC review of that decision. Further the NEC must provide a plan as to how the local party is to improve its practice and return to full democratic rights within the Party.
20. The Party should increase the ethnic diversity of its staff.”
30th June 2016
We are a group of Labour Party councillors who are dismayed by the attempt by some within the Parliamentary Labour Party to oust our democratically elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Many of us were elected in May, where in spite of predictions of an electoral meltdown, we won our seats. Voters who had previously felt abandoned by the Labour Party returned to vote for us, returned as members, and returned as campaigners.
It would be utterly self-defeating for the people we represent if now, less than a year after Jeremy was elected on the single biggest mandate of any previous leader, he was to be forced from office. It is our view that the behaviour of some members of the Parliamentary Labour Party is totally self-indulgent and at odds with what the communities we represent need. We will risk losing all those new members and enthusiastic campaigners who joined us because Jeremy offered a vision of hope for the future.
Our enemy is not Jeremy Corbyn – it is the Tory party and their plans to use the EU referendum as a fig leaf to inflict further cuts to the councils we represent.
We hope that those MPs who have embarked on this indulgent course of action will reflect on their behaviour and turn their fire on the real enemy, the Tory Party.
Full Councillors list on LabourList
30th June 2016
Young Labour has passionately campaigned to remain in the EU but respect the decision of the electorate.
Now the entire labour movement must consider again what is in the best interests of those who need social justice the most. We cannot allow racism and xenophobia to infect our politics and society at large.
Whilst we must also challenge the social inequality that has led to a Brexit vote. This vote has reflected the anger and disillusionment many communities feel where their livelihoods and standard of living has declined. The real enemy is austerity and we must continue to resist it.
Our party now needs to come together and have a vision for the country that addresses these concerns. The future is now uncertain.
The one certainty is that we as the Young Labour National Committee have full confidence in Jeremy Corbyn to continue to lead the Labour Party through these uncertainties. We are reassured by his decades of integrity and service, when it is obvious that so many do not trust politicians.
28th June 2016
The BFAWU statement on Jeremy Corbyn
Members and representatives of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union condemn the actions of a number of Labour MPs who have chosen to start a civil war within the party. Since Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election victory nine months ago, certain MPs, unable to accept democracy have sought to de-stabilise the party and undermine Mr Corbyn’s vision time and again, often through Conservative Party supporting outlets, including the Rupert Murdoch media empire.
In the space of nine months, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has increased it’s membership massively, gaining support from all sections of society, including students, the elderly, the disabled and previously disillusioned Trade Unions. His effective opposition has forced the government into U-turn, after U-turn on issues directly affecting ordinary people and he has performed solidly in local elections, winning important by-elections and mayoral elections, often increasing Labour’s vote share. It’s also worth mentioning, that Mr Corbyn is the first ever political leader to have a majority of females on the front benches. This is despite having inherited a broken and de-moralised party after the damaging 2015 General Election. The truth, is that as leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn has achieved more in nine months than his predecessor managed in five years.
The justification the rebel MPs are using for this attempted coup, is Mr Corbyn’s performance during the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. This is disingenuous to say the least. 63% of Labour Party supporters voted to remain in the EU, with 75% of Mr Corbyn’s own constituency voting to remain. If Labour wished to scapegoat anyone, surely it would have been members of the party’s pro-EU campaign management team, which included the likes of Alan Johnson and ironically, Hilary Benn. The reality, is that this cabal of mainly Blairite MPs have been planning this for a long time and given the timing, it begs the questions; how much of this is about the imminent arrival of the Chilcot report and who may, or may not come out of it badly? How much of this is to provide distraction? Is it just a coincidence that many of the people who are calling for votes of no confidence in Mr Corbyn are notorious supporters of Tony Blair, who voted for the illegal war in Iraq? It certainly seems bizarre, that given the fact that the Conservatives are going into meltdown and the country is crying out for unity, that these people should decide that now is the time for a civil war within the Labour Party.
The crisis currently engulfing the country is one that originated within the Conservative Party. David Cameron gambled with the welfare of the country during the 2015 General Election by making the promise of an EU referendum a key part of his election manifesto, in order to prevent losing votes to UKIP, placate Tory back-benchers and to ultimately protect his political position. However, rather than expose the Conservative Party and address the real issues now affecting the country, the media and the usual suspects within the the establishment have decided to make Jeremy Corbyn the sacrificial lamb, for no other reason than that they see him as a threat to the status quo. A political leader who cannot be bought.
The BFAWU and its members, are at a loss to understand the stupidity of these MPs. On Sunday, June 27th, members and activists of our Union were gathering outside the head office building of Samworth Brothers to support Kumaran Bose; a worker sacked for exposing the injustices workers are experiencing in his factory. While we were out fighting for fair play and equality, well paid Labour MPs were acting like drones for those who created the ‘Brexit’ mess by knifing their leader in the back, crowing about it on social media and prostituting themselves to current affairs TV programmes, in order to twist the knife further. This just adds insult to injury. That a number of Labour MPs seek to create division in such a treacherous manner and make it their priority, whilst our members face attacks on their terms and conditions, agency labour exploitation and zero hours contracts is beyond the pale. It makes you wonder what kind of Labour Party we’d be looking at, if the rogues gallery of Margaret Hodge, Hilary Benn, Ian Austin, Wes Streeting, Lucy Powell, Chris Bryant and all the other traitors of democracy somehow managed to seize power of the Labour Party.
The last two General Elections and the EU referendum showed that people in this country are fed up with Westminster and fed up of the politics of the past, including Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’. People up and down the country are angry, hurting and are crying out for change. For the first time since 1945, there is an opportunity to rebuild our country with a leader that offers a future for all and a society that we can all be a part of. That’s what Jeremy Corbyn offers and that’s why we, as the BFAWU will continue to support both him, his values and his vision.
26th June 2016
That this CLP:
is dismayed and angered by the antics of a section of the Parliamentary Labour Party who have sought to undermine our democratically-elected leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Notes Labour MPs would not have been elected without the efforts of ordinary members, trudging through the streets in the rain to deliver leaflets, putting the Party’s case across on the doorstep, organising in communities, and paying their regular subscriptions.
Believes that this is a critical moment which will determine the future of our communities for years to come, and that voters in XXXXXXX and across the country need Labour to be united and fighting to defeat any attacks on workers’ rights, environmental protections, and any increased racism and xenophobia.
And therefore resolves to support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party, and to condemn the actions of those who are seeking to divide the party and overturn the leaders’ democratic mandate
26th June 2016
We’re aware that the following Labour MPs have tweeted or otherwise publicly offered support to #KeepCorbyn.
If your MP isn’t here keep up the pressure by Twitter, email, phoning their office until they do!
If you see a pro-Corbyn tweet, FB, email or article from an MP on the list please let us know at email@example.com
John McDonnell MP
Liz McInnes MP
Diane Abbott MP
Richard Burgon MP
Peter Dowd MP
Ian Lavery MP
Jon Trickett MP
Cat Smith MP
Andy Burnham MP
Angela Rayner MP
Emily Thornberry MP
Paul Flynn MP
Clive Lewis MP
Tulip Siddiq MP
Kate Osamor MP
Imran Hussain MP
Margaret Greenwood MP
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP
Grahame Morris MP
Kate Hoey MP
Graham Allen MP
Ian Mearns MP
Dawn Butler MP
26th June 2016
Does the Labour Party belong to the hundreds of thousands of activists, members, supporters and affiliated trades unionists across the country? Or is it the property of politicians in Westminster?
Labour MPs would not have been elected without the efforts of ordinary members, trudging through the streets in the rain to deliver leaflets, putting the Party’s case across on the doorstep, organising in communities, and paying their regular subscriptions.
Jeremy Corbyn was elected with a huge democratic mandate, achieving a clear majority of Party members, as well as attracting a huge number of new or returning registered supporters to the fold.
Some right-wing MPs have never been reconciled to this democratic choice, and are now asking the Parliamentary Labour Party to overthrow the members’ choice without even consulting us. But if the Labour Party were ever to be taken out of the hands of its members, its very existence would be called into question.
The governance of the country is at a critical moment, as the shape of the post-Brexit negotiations becomes clear. The future living standards of our people are at stake. At a time when the Tories are rudderless and utterly split, Labour should be uniting behind Jeremy Corbyn to ensure that we defeat any attacks on workers’ rights, environmental protections or increased racism and xenophobia.
We call on Labour MPs to reject any self-indulgent and divisive moves against the Party’s choice of leader. This is OUR party and we have full confidence in Jeremy Corbyn.
Please email and tweet your Labour MP.
We would also encourage all LRC members and supporters who are able to attend to join the #BackCorbyn Protest at Parliament at 6pm tomorrow, Monday 27, to coincide with the meeting of the PLP.
25th June 2016
Right-wing Labour MPs Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey are trying to get a motion of no confidence in Jeremy Cobyn passed at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
With the Tories divided and facing a leadership contest at the same time the Brexit negotiations will be starting, the country needs a united Labour party keeping up the fight to defend protections for workers, ensure that the poorest aren’t made to pay the price of any economic fall out, and fight the growth of racism and xenophobia. The last thing we need is a period of self-indulgent navel gazing, or destructive infighting.
Use this handy tool to email your MP and ask your MP not to back this coup, and to #BackCorbyn.
24th June 2016
Referendum Result – First Thoughts
What a difference a day makes
Ian Ilett assesses the dangers and opportunities from the referendum result
Whatever you voted, or not at all, don’t let us succumb to the hyperbole and even hysteria that Brexit has unleashed. This was never our referendum. It was always about the deep divisions within the right. The two Project Fear campaigns turned the entire campaign into a deeply negative and divisive diversion from the real issues. Neither Remain’s economic scares nor Brexit’s immigration rhetoric will create a single job nor build a single home for ordinary people.
Brexit voters weren’t stupid or misled to reject the absurdly positive story of the EU that most of the Remain camp told. They weren’t racist to worry about wages, jobs, housing, hospitals, social services and their kids’ futures. They are sick of establishment politicians feathering their own nests and doing nothing for the working class people they are supposed to represent.
After decades of de-industrialisation and relentless assaults on the working class at every level, from lay-offs and the destruction of trade union rights, a vote to ‘Leave’ can represent an inchoate anti-establishment mood. How will that angry mood evolve?
While leaving the big business, rightward moving, neoliberal EU club is not in itself reactionary, victory for Brexit will fill the most reactionary politicians and their small band of followers with confidence. That is a serious risk, but a swing to the right is not inevitable. Cameron cynically called the referendum to settle the Tory leadership debate for once and all. His gamble has failed. Who will his successor be? There will be civil war within the Tory Party however much they try to camouflage it. It’s impossible to predict the outcome of that struggle but, given the small government majority, an early election must be possible.
That raises the prospect of turning the discontent manifested by the Brexit vote against the real curses of working class existence - austerity and the casualisation of labour. UKIP will no doubt do a total U-turn and try to reinvent itself. But there must be a question mark over its future now its sole objective has been achieved.
Yes or no, in or out, never offered anything major to the working class and the left. The political crisis and economic blowback are symptoms of a developing capitalist crisis. In the short term the economy will suffer. Capital outflows have been hit. Sterling and share prices are in turmoil. The Bank of England is desperate to cut interest rates, but they are already so low that will have little effect. Especially given our trade deficit, increased cost of imports will hurt, but cheaper exports and import substitution will also come into play.
Government economic policy will make a difference. Cutting demand with austerity policies will make things worse quickly, and reducing infrastructure investment make it even worse in the long run. Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to fight an austerity budget that Osborne threatened in the event of a ‘Leave’ vote.
An accurate quantification of medium and longer term economic implications is extremely difficult. But domestic Brexit effects are secondary to the existing negative economic trends at work domestically and internationally. The EU economy outside Germany is very weak. As Michael Roberts argued in the last issue of Briefing our fundamental problems are rooted in the problems and contradictions of capitalism, not Brexit, though it will to an extent exacerbate them immediately.
It is more vital than ever that Labour moves beyond the divisive old politics to address the frustration and anger so many feel. The media and right wing in Labour will try to scapegoat Jeremy Corbyn for the ‘Leave’ vote. But Labour’s leadership has been pro-EU for half a century; he’s been leader for months. The loss of Scotland to the SNP is the most extreme case of the damage New Labour has done to our traditional electoral base.
Corbyn has played an honest and decent role in the referendum campaign and respects democratic decision making. Especially in the wake of economic problems and Tory infighting he will get respect for principled politics. Labour can get a hearing for the pro-working class anti-austerity programme he campaigned on in the referendum.
This is also the only way to cut across the anti-immigrant mood which has undoubtedly been whipped up by the Brexiters. They were keen to emphasise Britain’s ‘great’ economy for their own purposes, We have to show that wealth and power can be harnessed to build a decent future for all. We must not be divided!
This article will appear in the forthcoming issue of LABOUR BRIEFING, the magazine of the LRC
See Michael Roberts’ view of Brexit here
24th June 2016
Southern Rail Fails
By Sussex LRC
Readers may have heard reports of the chaos on Southern Rail. Those on social media can try #SouthernFail or #GoViaNowhere which are among the most popular hashtags in use.
It arises out of rail union members, principally ASLEF drivers (now under court injunction) on Gatwick Express & Southern trains and RMT guards on Southern trains, taking action to oppose the introduction/extension of driver-only operation (DOO).
The dispute is of significance beyond the South East as the franchise for the region was created by the Coalition in 2014 to be the biggest and longest by far of any, giving Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operation of all services across the region, including Thameslink (all DOO), Southern (no DOO) and Gatwick Express (part DOO).
Passenger anger is such that there are now widespread demands for GTR/Southern to be stripped of its franchise. Local Tory MPs are buckling to the pressure, but there has been little national profile to this dispute which could catapult rail re-nationalisation to the top of the political agenda.
Reflecting this lack of national profile, a parliamentary petition calling for GTR to be stripped of its franchise still has less than 10,000 signatures despite only having a few days left to run. Please do what you can to push this - here
The Guardian has published a reflective piece from an ostensibly non-political angle - here
19th June 2016
The referendum – a view from Ireland
By Finn Geaney, Dublin Council of trade Unions,
Teachers Union of Ireland and Irish Labour party
The left in Britain has for decades been confused about the situation regarding the European Union. Some socialist organisations and a number of trade unions have come out in favour of voting to leave, believing that in this way they would be striking a blow against capitalism. A number of comrades have suggested abstention. But in my opinion abstention is not an option. Either it is beneficial for the advancement of socialism to vote ‘no’ or it is beneficial for the advancement of socialism to vote ‘yes’. It cannot be creditably argued that it would make no difference either way. For this is the only conclusion that can be drawn form an abstentionist position.
Some on the left argue that the European Union is undemocratic. There are three principal bodies involved in driving EU policy.
The European Parliament is elected by individual countries – conservative parties have a majority here. Christian Democrats have more seats than the Social Democrats and left Parties combined. However, the European Parliament is not a federal parliament such as exists in Germany or the US.
The European Council, which consists of the Heads of State or Government of the twenty eight member states, as well as the President of the European Commission, is the principal decision-making body of the European Union. It is that body which provides the impetus for EU policy initiatives. The European Council is driving a right-wing agenda today because the majority of its members belong to Europe’s conservative parties, itself the result of conservative election victories in the constituent states. So the first question facing socialists is how is it that right-wing parties are winning elections in so many European countries? The energies of socialists would be better directed here instead of against the chimera of a European Super State.
The third significant organisation in the governance of the European Union is the European Commission. Its task is to ensure that regulations and directives adopted by the Council and Parliament are implemented by the member states. The Commission also has the power to draw up proposals for new EU legislation. There is one Commissioner from each EU country. Inevitably, for the same reasons that apply in the other two organisations, a majority of the EU Commission were nominated by conservative governments.
So when left-wing activists fulminate about the EU being driven by unelected bureaucrats they are perhaps not taking sufficiently into account the tasks that properly belong to socialist parties and trade unions within the member states.
The Treaties that have been adopted since 1956 represent the primary legislation of the EU and form the basis for secondary legislation that appears in the form of regulations, directives and decisions. Some states adopted these Treaties by referendum, others by decisions in parliament. But whatever means allowed for the acceptance of Treaties can also be used to reverse aspects of these Treaties or to introduce new Treaties. Nothing is permanent.
It is true that negotiations on a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the United States represent a real threat to the conditions of workers and public services across Europe. But TTIP has to be fought by building trade union resistance across the countries of Europe and by changing government policy at home. Voting ‘no’ to the EU will not protect workers or public services from being undermined. In fact many of the improvements in workplace conditions in such areas as hours of work, health and safety and part-time employment came about as a result of directives from the European Union; as is also the case in health provision, food safety, environmental protection and animal husbandry.
The European Union is seen by the United States as a willing ally of NATO, yet no individual EU country is obliged by the EU Treaties to take part in any NATO endeavour. It is matter for socialists in the constituent states to resist the growing association of US imperialist interests with European foreign policy.
Those left-wing British MPs who in the 1950s and 1960s became engaged in the struggle against Gaitskell and the right in the Labour Party, in more recent decades came to identify a new enemy - Europe. Tony Benn, though himself a giant in the socialist movement, was one of the principal offenders in this regard. That tradition is carried on by left-wingers today. Basing their argument on ‘sovereignty’ they claim that progressive legislation is inhibited by membership of the European Union.
Do they forget that the privatisation measures carried through by the Thatcher Government were not inspired by Europe? Neither were her endeavours to weaken the trade union movement. The absence of a progressive system of taxation that would make the rich pay is not a consequence of a decision by the European Commission, and neither is the decision to run-down the NHS or the public system of education in favour of private interests.
If the vote to leave the European Union is carried, this will open the way to a surge of confidence for right-wing forces across British society. Immigrants, regardless of their country of origin, will pay a big price. Employers, freed of the shackles of progressive labour legislation emanating from the EU, will attack workers’ conditions. The consequent economic decline will adversely affect employment prospects.
How is the left planning to deal with that scenario? Is an upper-class twit like Boris Johnston going to be allowed to cause the reversal of gains that have been built up over decades of popular struggle? And are Farage and his likes to be given the freedom to open up new chasms amongst workers in Britain?
17th June 2016
Justice for Kumaran Bose
By Ian Hodson, National President,
Bakers’, Food & Allied Workers Union
We are organising a day of action in support of Kumaran Bose who was dismissed for speaking out and for organising a union in his workplace.
Please see our statement below.
We are seeking the support from the wider Labour movement to call on the company to reinstate Kumaran. We would hope people who believe in Justice and the right for workers to have a voice in there workplace are able to attend. The protest is taking place at 12.30pm Sunday 26th June at Chetwode House
1 Samworth Way
Union Activist Sacked in Fight for Union Recognition at Samworth Brothers
Leicestershire-based food giant Samworth Brothers are the owners of Cornish pasty maker Ginsters, as well as being the largest maker of certified Melton Mowbray pork pies. Last year alone they boasted of pre-tax profits of £41.7 million. But Samworth Brothers also have a long history of funding the Tories. Little wonder then that they are a decidedly anti-union business.
With the introduction of the new living wage last April, Samworth’s bosses have cut paid breaks, and have ditched premium rates for working unsocial hours and overtime. Workers responded in their hundreds by joining the Bakers Food and Allied workers Union, packing a series of huge public meetings when the ‘restructuring’ was first announced in February.
But in a vicious turn-of-events, Kumaran Bose, one of the leading union organisers who has done much to speak out against the undemocratic nature of the pay restructuring, was sacked last Friday (June 3). Kumaran has worked for the company for twelve years with not a blemish to his name, but since the dispute has begun has been subjected to severe bullying from his managers.
Kumaran’s only crime has been his outstanding success in convincing more than 50% of the workers in his factory to join the Bakers Food and Allied workers Union. And what his Managers particularly disliked was his brave decision to stand up for his rights and refuse to accept that he and his fellow workers should be treated so appallingly and that their families should be denied a decent standard of living..
Bizarrely when Kumaran lodged a formal grievance against his Samworth Management at Kettleby Foods, the company management team responded by embarking upon a retaliatory disciplinary procedure against him, accusing Kumaran of bullying his employers?!
Worse still, despite the fact that the majority of people at Kumaran’s factory are members of the Bakers Union, the company refuse to give the union a voluntary recognition at the site (May 23).
A formal appeal against this decision has now been lodged with the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) and the odds are strongly in favor of the workforce that Samworth’s management team will soon be forced by law to give formal recognition to the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union.
In the meantime Kumaran’s managers will no doubt continue to use every trick in the book to block their employees request and the right to join a union, talking to the workers they said they are disappointed by their work mates sacking but won’t be bullied or intimidated and will now redouble their efforts to recruit more members to send a clear message to their Tory funding bosses that they will no longer take no for an answer.
We are calling on all fair minded people to support our call for the reinstatement of Kumaran Bose.
Write to Samworth Brothers bosses at Paul.Davey@Bradgate-Bakery.co.uk and demand the reinstatement of Kumaran Bose
Recent article can be found at,
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Please follow Twitter @Justice4Kumaran
15th June 2016
Statement from Africans For Jeremy Corbyn Values
For the attention of: Iain McNichol, General Secretary,Members of the National Executive Committee and Compliance Unit head Labour Party
Delivered on 14th June 2016
Dear Mr McNichol,
Re: A collective response to recent suspensions of Labour Party members
We, the undersigned, affirm our faith in true Labour values and therefore support the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and the refreshing politics of the alternative he has brought back to the Labour Party.
We are, however concerned about the recent suspensions of committed Labour Party members for alleged anti-Semitism which undermines serious discussion and thinking. We are particularly concerned by the selective use of suspensions, most recently the suspension of Marlene Ellis, a hard working activist with a track record of fighting racism and supporting the local community, for an online post made on behalf of Momentum Black ConneXions which called for Ken Livingstone to be reinstated.
We also register our concerns about the suspensions of Ken Livingstone, Simon Hinds, Tony Greenstein, David White and others. We are disappointed that the appalling behaviour of John Mann MP, haranguing and insulting Ken Livingstone, a senior citizen, and calling him a liar and Nazi apologist in front of cameras, has not led to reproach or censure from the Labour Party and its Compliance Unit, even though the behaviour brought the Labour Party into disrepute. John Mann MP is an elected representative of the Party, and his behaviour fell far short of the standards expected of elected representatives.
It appears allegations of anti-Semitism are being used to stifle the sharing of information on some of the uncomfortable events that took place during the Shoah, the Maangamizi (African Holocaust) and free speech. Allegations are also being made to silence criticisms of Israel, hamper the work of Momentum activists, and undermine Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
We are uncomfortable with the parallel between the suspensions and what took place during the McCarthy era in the United States.
It is worrying that comments that do not please a section of the population are deemed anti-Semitic, whether or not statements are made in the course of rational or factual discussion, and there seems to be undue haste to suspend. Some members of the Party appear to have exploited a somewhat hysterical atmosphere which has been allowed to develop. This is reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts, rather than of calm, rational consideration. African tradition teaches us to value the lessons of the past in the spirit of Sankofa, so that we do not repeat mistakes.
We also note that there isn’t the same level of indignation when anti-African comments, or Islamophobic comments linking Muslims to ISIS, are made. All communities should be treated with equal respect.
The current suspensions are perceived as a tool to intimidate activists on the Left which is inimical to the progress of the Labour Party.
The recent lifting of Jackie Walker’s suspension supports the view that the suspensions are being applied and publicised in haste, without due consideration.
We call on the General Secretary of the Labour Party, the Compliance Unit and the NEC to make a full response to the points raised in this letter and not use the Chakrabarti Inquiry as an excuse to avoid addressing the serious points raised.
Awula Serwah, Africans for JC Values
Chris Jones, Africans for JC Values
Kwaku, Africans for JC Values
Nana Asante, Kilombo UK, Momentum member
Abu Akil, GACuk
Beverley Wong, Momentum Black ConneXions (MBC)
Delia Mattis Momentum Member
David Prichard-Jones, Labour Party Member
Dr David Muir
Dr. Ricardo Twumasi, Labour Party Member
Esther Stanford-Xosei, Global Afrikan People’s Parliament (GAPP)
Explo Nani-Kofi, Kilombo Centre for Civil Society and African Self Determination
Glenroy watson, GACuk
Ian Malcolm-Walker, Momentum NC and LRC EC both in a personal capacity
Jackie Walker, LRC, Labour Briefing Editorial Board
Jan Pollock, London Disabled People for Momentum member, UCU London retired member
Kofi Mawuli Klu, Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe (PARCOE)
Master Mo Monty
Michael Kalmanovitz, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (U.K.)
Mike Cowley, Edinburgh North and Leith CLP in a personal capacity
Nechamah Bonanos, Streatham CLP member Brixton and Streatham Hill ward
Nubian Emperor, Global Afrikan Congress
Raj Gill Ealing, Momentum member
Sam Weinstein, Payday Men’s Network
Selma James, Global Women’s Strike
Sara Calloway, Women of Colour, Global Women’s Strike
Tony Greenstein, Brighton Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Brighton & Hove Unison LG, Jews 4 Boycotting Israeli Goods
9th June 2016
Rhea Wolfson’s NEC Ambitions Blocked
Rhea Wolfson has been nominated unanimously by her home constituency Labour Party, Almond Valley, and is therefore eligible to stand for the NEC.
Nominate her and vote for her as part of the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance, along with: Ann Black, Christine Shawcroft, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams, and Peter Willsman.
By Rhea Wolfson
Over the past few weeks, I have been delighted to receive support for my candidacy for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) from a broad spectrum of opinion within the party, including nominations from dozens of Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs). It is clear that many members want to see me elected to the NEC.
However, I am now concerned that a faction of the party are trying to take that option away from the membership. To appear on the ballot Ineeded to secure, amongst other things, the nomination of my home CLP.
Last night Eastwood CLP, where my family home is, met to nominate candidates for the NEC. It was proposed that, given I am currently a member of the CLP, there would be a straight vote for or against my nomination. I made my case and answered questions from the room. I was then asked to leave the room while they discussed my nomination further. Once I had left, the ex-leader of Scottish Labour, Jim Murphy, appealed to the CLP to not nominate me. He argued that it would not be appropriate to nominate me due to my endorsement by Momentum, which he claimed has a problem with antisemitism. The constituency has a large Jewish population. The CLP then voted to not endorse me, before re-inviting me back into the room.
Needless to say, this is hugely disappointing. It is disappointing because I am the only Jewish candidate in this election, because the wide range of organisations endorsing me includes the Jewish Labour Movement, and because I have a long record of challenging antisemitism and have in fact faced it on a daily basis since my candidacy was announced. But above all, it is disappointing because I know there are many members who want to vote for me, who could now have lost that opportunity. I am considering my options going forward.
This Article Originally Appeared in Left Futures
Rhea has since posted:
This campaign is not over. Labour Party rules stipulate that members should register at only one address, and therefore only one Constituency Labour Party (CLP). Despite spending more time, and being more politically active, at my partner’s, I have been registered at my family home. This is, in part, due to an emotional connection to the area: it was here that I first campaigned for the Labour Party in 2005, and where I volunteered in my local MSP’s constituency office when still at school.
Last week, I was unsuccessful in securing a nomination from Eastwood, the CLP I grew up in. I released a statement on this and will not be commenting further.
I have transferred my membership to my other address and will seek nomination from my home CLP. If successful, I will be an officially nominated candidate for Labour’s National Executive Committee.
6th June 2016
Support the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign!
John Dunn, ex-Derbyshire National Union of Miners
IT’S 31 YEARS SINCE THE MINERS STRIKE ended but for those of us who fought for a whole year it seems like yesterday. 18 June 1984 was a blazing hot day. To listen to the BBC news that evening you would have thought that miners from all over Britain woke that morning and decided to put on their trainers, a clean T-shirt and their best pair of shorts as part of their preparation to attack heavily armed riot police.
That day has gone down in history as ‘The Battle of Orgreave’. The BBC provided a running commentary on “... the worst day of violence of the miners’ strike”. They showed police randomly beating miners, cavalry charges and snarling dogs as evidence of miners’ violence, even showing “barricades” built from which to attack police. It was a pity that they didn’t ask their military correspondents to explain that barricades are built as a line of defence, not attack.
As true agents of the government, their news that evening was edited in reverse to show pickets apparently attacking the police rather than the actual reality of defending themselves against numerous brutal attacks and cavalry charges. Many years later they apologised for this blatant lie, claiming an “accident” in the rush to get out the story.
Alongside them, the whole yellow press hailed the police victory against thuggery. It was a seminal moment of the strike. 95 miners were arrested and charged with riot, an offence carrying a potential life sentence. It took over a year for the start of their trials. In May 1985 the trial of the first 15 commenced, and for 48 days the prosecution gave their evidence. Then on 17 July the police evidence collapsed. Defence lawyers had proved massive discrepancies in police statements, and some officers’ oral evidence differed from their written statements. Photographs proved that officers’ evidence was inaccurate, and that several who claimed to have arrested men had not even been at the scene! As a result the prosecution of the further 80 miners was withdrawn. You would think that police evidence found to be falsified might result in charges of perjury or, at the very least, perverting the course of justice, perhaps even an apology or two. Dream on! Out of court settlements ensured that nothing entered the public domain. No charges were brought, no officer ever disciplined.
In 2012 a BBC documentary, Inside Out (unfortunately only shown in the North), found evidence of police collusion, with dozens of identical written statements having been dictated by some secretive official to junior officers. Such actions were to be paralleled five years later after the Hillsborough disaster. This led to the formation of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Committee. A year later the release of Thatcher’s secret Cabinet papers showed that from personally calculating the numbers of scab lorries needed, to instructing the police and courts to “get tough” with strikers, she was directing the show. Finally there was proof that a hit list of pits to be closed existed. We still live with the aftermath of the defeat of the strike - destroyed communities, dole and despair and an industry butchered. All around us are the boarded shop windows, the closed miners’ welfares, not to mention the despair in people’s eyes. My union, the NUM, faced a brutal onslaught. Our funds were sequestrated, our members and their communities attacked and brutalised by the paramilitary police but we never flinched, marching back to work, after a whole year, unbowed. How did we do it? Undoubtedly the support of our communities and the determination to fight sustained us, but the rank and file of the movement came to our aid. Support groups raised funds, food convoys ensured we did not starve and the working class showed solidarity at its finest.
I know many of the victims of that Orgreave police riot. One in particular represents all that happened. On 18 June 1984 he was beaten and bludgeoned beyond recognition. The NUM’s solicitor found him lying, barely alive, on the floor among dozens of fellow pickets. Those pickets had removed their shirts to bandage the severely injured who had been denied medical assistance. After protesting, the solicitor got him aid, only for him to be charged with riot, carrying the potential life sentence. He was held in Armley prison among the country’s most violent offenders for three weeks before obtaining bail. After near death, imprisonment and a year of mental hell, he walked free. But he will never be a free man. Hardly able to speak about that terrible day, his physical scars, still apparent, may have healed but the mental ones still haunt him.
11,000 of us were arrested and criminalised simply for wanting to work. Two pickets were murdered. Over 7000, myself included, were injured. I carry my criminal conviction and my scars to this day, like so many others. Orgreave is the tip of that iceberg of brutality and state oppression. That is why we demand an inquiry. By exposing the criminal conspiracy of the entire forces against us on that one day we can begin to start the process of righting such terrible wrongs. It is too late to save our industry, but while we still breathe, we fight!
This article originally appeared in the June issue of Labour Briefing.
Labour Briefing is the Magazine of the LRC.
4th June 2016
By Jackie Walker
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”
Say it loud and say it proud!
Then they ridiculed, tore him to pieces in the media, picketed wherever he went, banned him from fighting till he was penniless ......... and even now, even now ...... Radio 4 can’t find one black British person to pass comment on this great Black man’s passing and has Michael Parkinson making light of this great man’s political beliefs, turning him into a clown and still twisting his words.
Ali will not rest in peace, he’s still fighting in the struggles of oppressed peoples.
REST IN STRUGGLE!
A hero, our hero, my hero.
30th May 2016
Jackie Walker on BBC Radio
Labour activist Jackie Walker says she won’t apologise in wake of anti-Semitism row
A Labour activist cleared of anti-Semitism after saying Jews were the “chief financiers of the slave trade” today insisted she would not apologise for her comments.
Jackie Walker said she was “saddened if I’ve upset people” and called on her critics to join her campaign against “fascists” on the south coast of the country.
Ms Walker, the vice-chair of South Thanet Labour party in Kent and a senior official in the pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group Momentum, also said the Conservative party had a bigger problem with racism in its ranks.
She was suspended by Labour earlier this month after comments she made on Facebook came to light.
She had asked: “What debt do we owe the Jews?”
When a fellow user replied “the Holocaust”, Ms Walker – who claims to be part-Jewish – said: “I hope you feel the same towards the African holocaust? My ancestors were involved in both.
“Many more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews.
“And many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade.”
Labour announced on Saturday that following an inquiry, Ms Walker’s suspension had been lifted.
That prompted a furious response from the Jewish Labour Movement, who said: “Walker repeated an anti-Semitic slur. She showed no contrition.
“The outcome of this process shows, once again, that the political rhetoric of zero tolerance on anti-Semitism is not matched by action. This is why we are proposing changes to party rules.”
But Ms Walker was defiant in an interview on the BBC’s Today programme this morning, saying: “I don’t have an apology to make. I’m saddened if I’ve upset people, but sometimes when we’re talking in political speech we upset people, and these issues are very upsetting.
“All I’m saying is that every single death of every single person no matter what their race, no matter what their culture, is an awful thing. No one genocide, no one holocaust, is in my opinion worse than any other. I’m an internationalist – that’s what it means to be an internationalist.”
She added: “The context of this is extremely important. This was in a private Facebook post. I was talking to two friends, one of whom is an Israeli Zionist, one of whom isn’t. My friend who is the Israeli studied the holocausts – the African Holocaust and the Jewish Holocaust – with me. What we were talking about was whether or not there is an ethical argument against sanctioning Israel. So it’s not the point of whether the Jewish Holocaust was not important - it was critically important to what’s happened.”
Ms Walker went on: “It was me and my comrades who were down in Dover resisting the fascists, the people who have called ‘Hitler was right’. What I would love to see is a huge upswell of those people who have been so alarmed by what the Jewish Chronicle have reported. Let’s see them down there in solidarity with us fighting those fascists.
“My experience of the Labour movement tells me that the Labour movement has much to be proud of in its anti-racist work. Just compare it to what’s been happening in the Tory party and let’s question why the racism of the Tory party that is so easily pointed to is not coming under inspection. You could question why Boris Johnson, who described black people as picaninnies with watermelon smiles, wasn’t suspended, because I know if he had been in the Labour party he would have been.”
For the full BBC interview herewith, Jackie’s interview starting 1 hour 22 minutes in.click here
29th May 2016
PRESS RELEASE 27 May 2016
Labour Party Clears Jacqueline Walker of Anti-Semitism and Lifts her Suspension in First High-Profile Decision Following Allegations of Anti-Semitism within the Labour Party
Jackie Walker, the Vice-Chair of the Momentum Movement and leading Labour Party activist has been cleared of Anti-Semitism by the Labour Party today, and her suspension has been lifted with immediate effect.
Ms Walker was suspended by the Labour Party on 4 May 2016, on allegations that she has posted so-called ‘anti-Semitic’ comments on social media. Ms Walker vigorously denied the allegations and was robustly defended by the high-profile Human Rights solicitor, Martin Howe, who previously represented the British Army Gurkhas in their campaign for settlement rights in the UK. Following a full investigation by the Labour Party, Ms Walker has now been cleared of all allegations and the Party has wished her well in her future campaigning and party activities.
Ms Walker’s solicitor, Martin Howe, said:
“The complaints against Ms Walker were potentially serious but they related to matters which go to the heart of free speech and political free speech. She is not a racist, and having strongly held views on the conflict in the Middle East and historical matters of a factual nature is not anti-Semitism. The danger with cases like this is that genuine debate and free speech has been silenced by the chilling effect of unfair and inaccurate allegations of anti-Semitism against a person who has fought against racism, in all forms, all her life. The effect on Ms Walker has been untold and she has suffered vilification in the press, online and in the street. I am glad I supported her and helped vindicate her fundamental rights of free speech.”
Jackie Walker said:
“These last few weeks have been a living nightmare. In the street, people have come up to me and shouted “racist” and my own family in Israel, America and the UK have shunned me because unknown persons have wrongly accused me of anti-Semitism. I am glad this investigation has fully cleared me of any wrong doing.
I am not a racist, but I robustly defend my right and the right of others to speak openly and frankly about matters of grave political and historical importance. That is the cornerstone of the right of free speech in our democracy. I have no doubt that my suspension was provoked by elements in the right-wing press and others opposed to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn in order to seek to damage his leadership and paint the Labour Party as ‘anti-Semitic’, which it is not.
Like Jeremy Corbyn, I abhor all forms of racism but to allege racism where none exists denigrates those who struggle against injustice, discrimination and racism on a daily basis. What I have suffered and the effect this episode has had on my health and, also, on my family can only be described as the lowest form of “attack politics”. I thank my solicitor, Martin Howe, for stepping in to help and defend me and uphold the right of free speech and political debate within the Labour Party.”
Martin Howe, Senior Partner, Howe & Co Solicitors 07710921256 & 020 8840 4688
Email Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: Howe & Co Solicitors, 1010 Great West Road, Brentford, Middlesex TW8 9BA
28th May 2016
PRESS RELEASE 27 May 2016
Labour Party Clears Jacqueline Walker of Anti-Semitism and Lifts her Suspension in First High-Profile Decision Following Allegations of Anti-Semitism within the Labour Party
Jackie Walker, the Vice-Chair of the Momentum Movement and leading Labour Party activist has been cleared of Anti-Semitism by the Labour Party today, and her suspension has been lifted with immediate effect.
Ms Walker was suspended by the Labour Party on 4 May 2016, on allegations that she has posted so-called “anti-Semitic” comments on social media. Ms Walker vigorously denied the allegations and was robustly defended by the high-profile Human Rights solicitor, Martin Howe, who previously represented the British Army Gurkhas in their campaign for settlement rights in the UK. Following a full investigation by the Labour Party, Ms Walker has now been cleared of all allegations and the Party has wished her well in her future campaigning and party activities.
Ms Walker’s solicitor, Martin Howe, said:
“The complaints against Ms Walker were potentially serious but they related to matters which go to the heart of free speech and political free speech. She is not a racist, and having strongly held views on the conflict in the Middle East and historical matters of a factual nature is not anti-Semitism. The danger with cases like this is that genuine debate and free speech has been silenced by the chilling effect of unfair and inaccurate allegations of anti-Semitism against a person who has fought against racism, in all forms, all her life. The effect on Ms Walker has been untold and she has suffered vilification in the press, online and in the street. I am glad I supported her and helped vindicate her fundamental rights of free speech.”
Jackie Walker said:
“These last few weeks have been a living nightmare. In the street, people have come up to me and shouted “racist” and my own family in Israel, America and the UK have shunned me because unknown persons have wrongly accused me of anti-Semitism. I am glad this investigation has fully cleared me of any wrong doing. I am not a racist, but I robustly defend my right and the right of others to speak openly and frankly about matters of grave political and historical importance. That is the cornerstone of the right of free speech in our democracy. I have no doubt that my suspension was provoked by elements in the right-wing press and others opposed to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn in order to seek to damage his leadership and paint the Labour Party as “anti-Semitic”, which it is not. Like Jeremy Corbyn, I abhor all forms of racism but to allege racism where none exists denigrates those who struggle against injustice, discrimination and racism on a daily basis. What I have suffered and the effect this episode has had on my health and, also, on my family can only be described as the lowest form of “attack politics”. I thank my solicitor, Martin Howe, for stepping in to help and defend me and uphold the right of free speech and political debate within the Labour Party.”
Martin Howe, Senior Partner, Howe & Co Solicitors 07710921256 & 020 8840 4688
Email Contact: email@example.com
Address: Howe & Co Solicitors, 1010 Great West Road, Brentford, Middlesex TW8 9BA
26th May 2016
Time to change the agenda
Editorial of June Labour Briefing
BBC BOSSES BREATHED A SIGH OF RELIEF that the government’s long-awaited White Paper on the Corporation’s future did not compromise its political independence as much as they had feared. But perhaps it didn’t have to. Long-term pressure on the BBC has already yielded results – government ministers are interviewed four times as often as their shadow counterparts and complaints are widespread about an anti-Corbyn bias since his election as leader last year.
Over 35,000 people signed an online petition in less than a week calling for the dismissal of BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg for her blatant anti-Labour line. But due to a handful of unrepresentative sexist comments, this was portrayed as a ‘hate campaign’ mounted by Corbyn supporters and 38 Degrees took down the petition. So legitimate concerns about bias from a publicly funded broadcaster turn into a debate about left wing sexism. The same card was played when local activists‘targeted’ Stella Creasey MP for voting to bomb Syria last December: they were demonised as ‘anti-woman’.
A more pernicious extension of this toxic tactic underpins many of the allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Legitimate outrage at Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, or even discussing the history of the Zionist movement, is being portrayed as Labour having ‘a problem with Jews’. A score of mostly spurious suspensions have followed and, unsurprisingly, Jeremy Corbyn’s enemies, inside the Party and out, have missed no opportunity to lay the blame at his door – even if the vast majority of so-called incidents occurred before he was leader.
The commission to look into anti-Semitism and racism under Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti is to be welcomed. It’s unlikely that Labour’s internal investigation into the allegations will find much substance to most of them. Meanwhile left wing activists, some of them Jewish themselves, are suspended for months at a time and their names are given by party officials to the media. Yet in many cases they have no notice of why they have been banned. While they try to defend their reputations against trial by media, our movement is forced to respond to an agenda dictated by its enemies, and sustained by those within who see an opportunity to damage the Corbyn leadership, now their dire predictions about May’s election results have proved false.
A recent YouGov poll found only 5% of respondents believed Labour had a particular anti-Semitism problem, while nearly half felt the crisis had been ‘created by the press and Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents to attack him’. Labour members have a proud record of fighting racism, in contrast to the Tories who continuously stoke fears about immigrants, ran a frankly racist and Islamophobic campaign in the London mayoral race and have tried, with breathtaking hypocrisy, to make political capital out of all this.
Where does it stop? The purge is now being extended to exclude Marxists who are being informed they ‘do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party’. Some believe this is all part of a counter-attack by Labour’s apparatus to witch-hunt the left in the Party ahead of a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
We need to resist these attacks but we also need to re-set the agenda onto the issues we should be talking about. There is now an open crisis within the Tory Party, with each side in the EU referendum debate accusing the other of lying and endangering British security. The divisions are paralysing government – the Queen’s Speech was an unprecedentedly threadbare rehash of old announcements and in any case will be irrelevant if Cameron is forced out this summer. Meanwhile the government has been forced to execute a score of U-turns – on child refugees, forced academisation of schools and the hated Trade Union Bill, even amending its own Queen‘s Speech motion ahead of a threatened defeat on TTIP.
With Labour’s Bitterite tendency temporarily silenced by creditable election results and a Mirror poll showing Jeremy Corbyn still enjoys the support of two thirds of members, now is the time to set out a positive alternative to this bankrupt government. We have a unique opportunity to open an agenda for an alternative economic policy that cracks down on tax avoidance, embraces fully-funded public services, sustainable industry, job creation, truly affordable housing and a range of popular policies that can reach voters who became disaffected in the New Labour years. Do not be deterred by their attempts to divert us from this goal!
Labour Briefing is the Magazine of the LRC
26th May 2016
Call It By Its Name: Afriphobia Is Racism Against African People
An Open Letter To Labour Party’s Chakrabarti Inquiry From A Group Of Africans Concerned About The Inquiry’s Focus & Language
We the undersigned note that the Labour Party has set up the Chakrabarti Inquiry (Inquiry) to investigate “Anti-Semitism and other forms of racism”.
We are of the view that the terms of reference: ‘Anti-Semitism and other forms of Racism’ are unwittingly discriminatory, as racism against Jewish people is set apart from racism and prejudice against other peoples, particularly Africans (Afriphobia) and Muslims (Islamophobia).
Even though there is only one race, the human race, a more appropriate title could be on the lines of ‘Investigation into Racism, which includes Afriphobia, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia’.
We note that over the years there have been allegations of racism towards Africans (Africans from the continent of Africa and Africans from the Diaspora) and Asians within and outside the Labour Party, but no independent public inquiry has been set up to investigate these allegations.
Undoubtedly the Jewish holocaust (properly known among the Jewish people as Shoah) is a terrible blight on human history, but we must remember that there were holocausts before and after. The Congolese holocaust in the name of King Leopold II, is said to have claimed 10 million lives.
The holocaust perpetrated on Africans, also properly known by African people by the Kiswahili words Maafa or Maangamizi, led to the deaths of tens of millions of Africans in holding cells on the continent of Africa, in the process of capture and kidnappings, in the Middle Passage, in enslavement and plantation systems in the Americas, Caribbean, and in the German-governed death camps in Namibia.
The survivors of the Middle Passage suffered unimaginable torture and hardships at the hands of enslavers and plantation owners, and their descendants continue to suffer acute deprivation and are the object of discrimination and racism in America and in the UK, where they are under- represented at every level of public life, including in the Labour Party, and over-represented on all indices of social deprivation and criminalisation.
It is for this reason that pan-African Reparation organisations continue to work on repairing the damage to Africans and Africa caused by the trafficking of enslaved Africans, colonialism and neo colonialism. This damage is still being experienced by people of African heritage today.
How is it that commentators can freely blame Africans for the atrocities they suffered with little understanding of the context of the Maangamizi or Maafa without any public uproar? In addition, the school curriculum does not currently teach sufficiently about non-European civilisations, the contributions of non-Europeans to world civilisation or the uncomfortable truths about the British Empire. This in itself contributes to the structural racism which is in society in general, including the Labour Party, where ignorance of the history of the peoples of Africa pervades.
Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are recognised as challenges that need to be addressed, but Afriphobia is so ingrained in our society that it is not acknowledged as an issue that needs to be challenged, or called by its specific name.
People of African heritage can be vilified and even blamed for the genocide they suffered without any public inquiry or calls for a public inquiry. However when comments perceived to be negative are made about Zionism or the state of Israel, this is perceived at times to be anti-Semitic by those who do not like the comments, whether or not these claims are supported by evidence. This often results in suspensions from the Party and other unfair censures.
We reject the idea that opposition to Zionism or the Israeli government is necessarily anti-Semitism.
The United Nations has declared 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent, and has recognised that Africans represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected.
We therefore call upon the Inquiry to investigate and accord equal importance to Afriphobia and its manifestations within and outside the Labour Party.
We also ask the Inquiry not to unwittingly promote discrimination by the exclusion of the Afriphobia* terminology, and advocate the use of the AAEM (African, Asian, Ethnic Minority) terminology instead of BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) which excludes the African identity.
* We define Afriphobia as: The prejudice or discrimination against; fear, hatred, or bigotry towards people of African heritage and things African.
Awula Serwah, Africans For JC Values
Kwaku, RE:IMI (Race Equality: In Music industry)
Dr KB Asante
Adekayode Oke (AFRIKAATUUU Convention for Afrikan Networking (AFRIKAATUUU-CAFRINET), Nigeria)
Adwoa Oforiwaa Adu (All-Afrikan Students Union Link in Europe (AASULE))
Althea Gordon-Davidson (Pan-Afrikan Community Educational Services (PACES))
Beverley Wong (Momentum Black ConneXions)
Boucka Stephane Koffi (Pan-Afrikan Fora International Support Coordinating Council (PAFISCC))
Chris Jones (Africans For JC Values)
Esther Stanford-Xosei (Global Afrikan Peoples Parliament)
Darla Migan (Vanderbilt University)
Delia Mattis (Momentum member)
Dr Barryl Biekman (Europe-Wide NGO Consultative Council on Afrikan Reparations (ENGOCCAR), Holland)
Enigye Adjoa Ayebea, Grassroots All-Afrikan Women’s Internationalist Solidarity Sisterhood (GAAWISS), Ghana)
Explo Nani-Kofi (Kilombo Centre for Citizens’ Rights and African Self-Determination, Ghana)
Glenroy watson (RMT London Transport Regional Council, Global Afrikan Congressuk)
Jackie Walker (Momentum, South Thanet Labour Party (suspended), LRC Executive and Labour Briefing Editorial Board)
Kofi Mawuli Klu (Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe)
Kwame Adofo Sampong (Trade Unions and the Pan-Afrikan Community Link (TUPACOL))
Kwame Dede Akuamoah (NKRUMAHBUSUAFO Kwame Nkrumah Convention Family Movement, Ghana)
Linda Bellos (Linda Bellos Associates)
Maatyo Dede Azu (ADZEWAGBETO Pan-Afrikan Women’s Liberation Union (ADZEWAGBETO-PAWLU), Ghana)
Mawuse Yao Agorkor (VAZOBA Afrika and Friends Networking Open Forum (VAZOBA-AFNOF), Ghana)
Nana Asante (Momentum)
Omowale Ru-Pert-em-Hru (Pan-Afrikan Society Community Forum)
Nehemie Zeguen Toure (Mouvement Social Panafricain pour le Development Integral (MSPDI), Cote d’Ivoire)
Ngoma ‘Silver’ Bishop (Bema Arts)
Opeyemi Araromi (Pan-African Congresses-United Kingdom Organising Committee (PACs-UKOC))
Professor Lewis Gordon (University of Connecticut, Rhodes University, Birkbeck School of Law, Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès)
Professor Paget Henry (Brown University)
Prophet Kweku & Jendayi Serwah (Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March Committee (AEDRMC))
Samantha Asumadu (Media Diversified)
Shemi Leira (Momentum Black ConneXions)
Simeon Stanford (Afrikan Reparations Transnational Community of Practice (ARTCoP))
Sumana Nandi (Grassroots Women’s Internationalist Solidarity Action Network (GWISAN), India)
Toyin Agbetu (Ligali Organisation)
Marlene Ellis (Momentum Black ConneXions)
Wedam Abassey (Forum of Nkrumaist Thought and Action (FONTA), Ghana)
Xolanyo Yawa Gbafa (EDIKANFO Pan-Afrikan Youth and Students Internationalist Link (EDIKANFO-PAYSIL), Ghana)
13th May 2016
Momentum defends Jackie Walker
A statement from Momentum on the suspension of Jackie Walker from the Labour Party:
Momentum condemns the suspension of Jackie Walker, Vice Chair of our Steering Committee, from the Labour Party on 4 May. Jackie, a black activist of Jewish heritage and lifelong anti-racist campaigner and trainer, was suspended by the party for alleged antisemitism following an article that appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, which quotes statements she made on Facebook discussing her family history.
We are extremely concerned by the lack of due process in this case, and the failure to apply the principles of natural justice. Journalists were briefed about Jackie’s suspension by party staff before she had been informed. Indeed, she is still yet to receive any formal notification of either her suspension, the basis for it, or a timetable for her hearing. As the suspension was not briefed to the press as ‘without prejudice’, it has been interpreted by some as a presumption of guilt before any process has taken place.
Momentum calls for the immediate lifting of her suspension and for new rules to be put in place by the party to govern the handling - and the press briefing - of sensitive disciplinary matters, and for all suspensions to be agreed in advance by NEC members after the person concerned has the right to make representations.
Momentum unambiguously condemns antisemitism and welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s launch of an expert-led inquiry.
We hope that this inquiry is the start of a process of investigating how all forms of racism and oppression that exist in society replicate themselves in any way within the Labour Party. For the labour movement to fight racism and oppression effectively, we need comradely self-criticism, education, and awareness raising of these complex issues. We pledge that Momentum will play a productive role in this process.
12th May 2016
Defend Jackie Walker
Suggested model motion for Party branches:
This branch wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemns all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. We further wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemn the suspension by the Labour Party of Thanet Labour Party member Jackie Walker for alleged anti-Semitism.
Jackie Walker is a longstanding member of the Labour Party, and was Vice-Chair of Thanet South Labour Party until her suspension. She played a key role in helping to organise the defeat of Nigel Farage, when he contested Thanet South in the general election 2015. She is an active anti-racism campaigner and a founding member of the Kent Anti-Racism Network. KARN has been organising for refugees stuck in the camps of Calais, and mobilising opposition to openly fascist groups seeking to stoke anti-migrant sentiment and community divisions in Dover.
We welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s initiative to hold a full inquiry into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Any member who has made actually anti-Semitic comments should face immediate suspension pending an investigation. But care must be taken not to suspend members on a spurious basis, and that is what Jackie Walker’s suspension clearly is. Those who have been suspended on a spurious basis should be immediately reinstated.
Such suspensions are also a clear invitation to the Party’s enemies to use our procedures to damage our Party and its effective operation.
We call upon the National Executive Committee to lift the suspension immediately, to reinstate Jackie Walker and to apologise to her.
Jackie Walker has been suspended following a complaint to the Labour Party from the Jewish Chronicle, reporting that an organisation called the Israel Advocacy Movement had uncovered remarks on Facebook made by her earlier this year. Those remarks, in the context of a discussion about the Holocaust and human rights today, were “millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews. Many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice.” Jackie Walker is of mixed African-Caribbean and Jewish heritage.
11th May 2016
Victory against the Blacklist
Eight major construction firms have been forced by the courts to pay £50 million in compensation to workers who suffered for years, sometimes decades, on account of a secret blacklist illegally kept against them. The blacklist was organised by an organisation called the Consulting Association. Apart from inaccurate and second hand reports from spies in the trade union movement, it is quite clear that the employers were using information that could only have come from the police and security services.
Blacklist Support Group campaign secretary Dave Smith said the High Court action was, a “Historic victory for the trade union movement against the vicious face of free-market capitalism.”
“These fat cats and their friends in the police took food off of our children’s table, causing years of family hardship.
“We take this personally and a few quid and a mealy-mouthed apology is a long way from justice.
“We intend to continue our fight to expose those who orchestrated and colluded with blacklisting. In any civilised society, the wretches would be in jail by now.”
Unite’s Len McCluskey added that the massive scale of the agreed damages showed, “The gravity of the misdeeds” of these major construction companies:
“The sums to be paid out go a considerable way to acknowledge the hurt, suffering and loss of income our members and their families have been through over many years,”
“This settlement is a clear statement on behalf of the trade union movement that never again can such nefarious activities be allowed to happen against decent working people trying to earn an honest living in a tough industry.”
This is a big breakthrough, but it is not the end of the blacklisted workers’ fight for justice.
Support the Blacklist Support Group.
11th May 2016
Nominate Rhea Wolfson for constituency section of Labour’s National Executive Committee
Since his suspension, Ken Livingstone is ineligible to stand for the NEC.
The Centre Left Grassroots Alliance is nominating Rhea Wolfson in his stead.
Alongside Ann Black, Christine Shawcroft, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams,and Peter Willsman, the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance is now supporting Rhea Wolfson for the NEC. Rhea is former President of Oxford University Jewish Society; former Secretary of London Young Labour; current Women’s Officer for Scottish Young Labour; current Co-op Party rep on UK Young Labour National Committee; and a full-time branch secretary for GMB Scotland. Please urge your CLP to nominate Rhea by 24 June.
Rhea writes: Britain needs a Labour Party that can deliver a confident and credible democratic socialist agenda; an alternative to the inequality of conservatism and the inertia of nationalism - with fairness and equality at its heart.
Labour must be the party that stands against austerity to improve the lives of working people across borders. Our party needs to be strong and united, with all levels of the party working in a transparent and tolerant manner.
I will work to empower members, local parties, and activists; to fight for a more democratic party that can deliver change - and ultimately, deliver victory.
Rhea is a member of Eastwood CLP, L1205274.
11th May 2016
Reinstate Jackie Walker Latest
if you want to keep up with what’s happening on the campaign to reinstate Jackie Walker ‘like’ this new page which has been set up to campaign against her suspension and the accusation of anti-Semitism to undermine the leadership of the Labour Party
9th May 2016
Scottish Labour’s Disaster:
Hamstrung between Scottish Nationalism and Unionism
By Laura Dover
It was shortly after midnight on the 6 May when Thomas Docherty, ex-Blairite MP and list candidate for Scottish Labour, appeared on the BBC’s Scottish Parliament election coverage to articulate what had gone so badly wrong for Scottish Labour in this latest round of Holyrood elections. Unsurprisingly for someone of Docherty’s political persuasion, he considered the 2016 Scottish Labour manifesto an act of “self-immolation for dummies”. In his view, it signified a lurch to the left akin to the 1983 manifesto and moderate, middle Scotland rejected this loony leftism.
Perhaps Docherty regretted commenting at this early stage of the game, as several hours later he failed to be elected to Parliament and achieved little other than inciting anger among the membership. However, his comments set the tone for the Labour right’s reaction to the results. John McTernan’s post-election column in the Scotsman asserted that voters had “punished” Scottish Labour for Kezia Dugdale’s equivocation on the union and attempting to outflank the SNP on the left with an anti-Trident renewal policy and proposals for an increase in the basic rate of income tax. McTernan cites Dumbarton, one of the few constituencies held by Labour, as evidence of why a Unionist and ‘centre-ground’ position would have delivered - incumbent Jackie Baillie held the seat by a margin of 109 votes, narrowly beating the SNP, and had made her pro-Trident stance a focal point of her campaign.
This is an argument that doesn’t hold up very well across the 72 other constituencies. In Dumbarton there was a swing of 3.8% from Labour to other parties, with the Conservatives and SNP increasing their vote share by 2.6% and 1.6% respectively. This was relatively low, with constituencies in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and West Lothian seeing a swing of approximately 12% from Labour to the Conservatives in traditional Labour heartlands. It appears Baillie was able to achieve the status of the Unionist candidate due to being an established incumbent, but that across the board voters primarily motivated by preserving the union unsurprisingly trusted a British nationalist Tory Party over a social democratic option. Further, at the 2015 General Election, the SNP stood on a unilateralist platform and gained the closely corresponding Westminster constituency of West Dunbartonshire from Labour with a majority of over 14,000 votes. At this time, Scottish Labour were yet to pass policy opposing the renewal of Trident, suggesting that retention of the ‘nuclear deterrent’ is not the magic bullet in this constituency.
The Scottish Labour left’s reaction to the results so far has been to lay the blame on a toxic combination of separatism and unionism. Scottish Labour, caught between two competing forms of nationalism, has been unable to make its economic arguments heard. While these were undoubtedly significant factors, an argument which begins and ends with nationalism is equally as myopic as the right’s insistence that we veered too far to the left for Scotland’s liking. After all, political parties fight elections but do not do so in circumstances of their own making. Neither side in this argument has been willing to acknowledge that this election is yet another milestone in Scottish Labour’s decades of decline. Another opportunity to mitigate damage and rebuild has been thrown away.
It is now vital for the future of Scottish Labour that it acknowledges the fundamental lack of trust in Labour which developed in Scotland throughout the New Labour years. The analysis of why this came about is well worn. Labour’s working class core voters feeling increasingly alienated from a party that embraced big business and the Murdoch-owned media and find it harder to distinguish between Labour and the Conservatives in terms of their image and policies. Evidently, the rot set in for Scottish Labour long before its catastrophic result on 5 May. The intervening five years have been characterised by continuing failure to move on from the early years of New Labour.
Indyref, and Labour’s complicity in Better Together served as confirmation to much of Scottish Labour’s core vote that it was more closely aligned to unionism and the Tories than the interests of working class people. Labour’s own No campaign only appeared to grow legs in the final stages of indyref, by which point it was entirely too late. The party had already espoused Tory arguments for remaining in the UK, thereby shattering its already deteriorating image and credibility. With the exception of a brief, embarrassing flirtation with Saltire-waving under Jim Murphy, Labour’s involvement in Better Together encouraged British nationalist tendencies in voters to secure a No vote. It is unsurprising that those voters were subsequently drawn to the Conservative and Unionist Party, rather than the “unionism lite” on offer from Labour. The likes of McTernan are keen to lament that Scottish Labour is being “punished” by voters, but this implicit self-pity conveniently overlooks the role that the Party played in resurrecting unionism as a significant political factor in Scottish politics.
This repeated inability to assess honestly and admit its past mistakes pervaded Scottish Labour’s 2016 Holyrood campaign. The manifesto was broadly social democratic - certainly to the left of the SNP - and contained a number of strong left wing policies, but these were at odds with flagship policies such as championing home ownership via subsidising mortgages. The result was a lack of a coherent socialist vision, and a party that didn’t even seem particularly convinced by its own policies. A quick scan of Scottish Labour’s list candidates revealed a great number of familiar faces, many of whom were too tainted by New Labour to ever convince voters to “take a fresh look at us” as the party’s campaign materials exhorted them to. The same old guard that refuses to examine its past is preventing Scottish Labour from rehabilitating its image and culture and from developing a coherent ideology and stance on the constitution. The failure of Dugdale and others to accept that the constitutional debate is now firmly embedded in the Scottish political landscape did not help matters. Until UK and Scottish Labour can develop a constitutional approach which is ideologically placed to develop arguments for redistributing wealth and power, it will be hamstrung between Scottish nationalism and Unionism.
Hopefully this latest defeat was sufficiently crushing to prompt an influx of fresh faces and the development of a coherent socialist ideology and constitutional position. This is a crucial moment for the Party to begin to rid itself of the remnants of Blairism that paralyse it, and to acknowledge its role in creating external forces rather than retreating into the comforting rhetoric of “flags beat facts”. Judging by the diatribes of McTernan and Docherty, some sections of the Party have failed to learn anything from this decade of decline, and this continued failure to learn - not unilateralism or raising income tax - is “self-immolation for dummies”.
8th May 2016
Another reason to be cheerful
…. Marvin Rees elected as Bristol Mayor
By Tony Benson
Bristol went to the polls on Thursday the 5 May to vote for a Mayor. Incumbent George Ferguson was standing again and so was Labour’s Marvin Rees. Turn out in 2012 was low 27.92% this time it was 44.87%. In working class areas turn-outs in 2012 were low whilst more affluent areas were high. The conclusion highlighted polarised class divisions. A low turn with a privileged few voted for so-called independent Ferguson complete with his gimmicky red trousers.
Turn the clock forward to Thursday 5 2016 the results were a lot different. Overall high turn-out 44.87% and from the breakdown of stats higher turns in working class areas. Four years of Ferguson with his frivolous vanity projects such as support for big business friendly ventures one being the Bristol Arena. In the meantime, the housing crisis has been as bad for ordinary people as it has been elsewhere, educational results in Bristol schools are drifting into being indifferent and public transport is extremely poor.
With a political backdrop of the right-wing press aided and abetted by embittered Blairites baying for Jeremy Corbyn it really shows that when organising in working class areas and getting the vote out means Labour can and does well. Bristol mainly consists of suburban sprawl with a mix of well-to-do areas, poor inner-city areas, working class council estates and “middle England” areas. It is exactly the kind of place that right wing pundits sneeringly say Labour cannot succeed in. Except we now can.
7th May 2016
Local Elections in England
- Reasons to be Cheerful
By Michael Calderbank
Even before the polls had closed, the attacks from Corbyn’s opponents had started. It didn’t matter what the actual results were - the narrative had been set already. Lord Kinnock, that fount of wisdom on electoral success, opined in Prospect magazine that the leadership’s policies “are an impediment to getting the kind of support we need”. Neil Coyle MP pre-briefed BBC Newsnight that Labour was “moving further away” from election victory under 2020 under Corbyn.
The polling community, influenced by assumptions of the Westminster bubble, projected substantial losses for Labour. Peter Kellner spoke of a “consensus” that 150-200 seats would be lost. Corbyn’s Labour would lose control of a slew of Councils it previously ran. The party’s internal number-cruncher Greg Cook was issuing similar warnings. They had already concluded that Labour had retreated into its ideological comfort zone, and decided to play primarily to its core vote - with adverse consequences in the key electoral battlegrounds in the South and East. When the results came through, this pre-cooked story did not hold up. The losses on the scale predicted simply failed to materialise.
The verdict passed by voters across the country was substantially more positive. Far from having collapsed, Labour’s national vote share was up on that achieved by Ed Miliband in last year’s general election. Of course further progress still has to be made if we are to regain power in 2020. But the direction is generally positive, even despite the slew of media attacks, and dissent from the inside the PLP. Given that the corresponding local election results in 2011 represented a high water mark - as voters had their first opportunity to vote against the Coalition parties - it was always going to be difficult to make substantial advances this time round. MPs arguing Labour needed to be making hundreds of gains were setting a deliberate impossible target to paint a false picture of failure. They key is to be more successful than before in terms of sustaining forward momentum throughout the government’s term and building a platform for a General Election victory.
In actuality, Labour had a good deal to celebrate in England. London elected Sadiq Khan, with 57% of first and second preference votes. The election of a Muslim mayor with such a handsome majority represented a clear rejection of the vile racist smear campaign run by allies of Lynton Crosby for the Tories. The GLA results saw Labour take the constituency seat of Merton and Wandsworth, previously a Tory stronghold. No adverse effect there.
Elsewhere, too, Labour performed better than expect outside its heartlands, retaining control of councils such as Southampton, Crawley, Hastings, Exeter, Nuneaton, and Redditch. In Worcester, previously regarded as a “barometer” seat in Middle England, Labour made gains to deny the Tories a majority.
One of the few disappointing results in England was Labour’s loss of Dudley Council to No Overall Control. Here the local Labour MP, a loud-mouthed enemy of the Corbyn leadership blind to the consequences of his own irresponsible behaviour, had never ceased to publicly attack his own party leadership and undermine the credibility of his own party’s policies. Dudley Labour Councillors can feel rightly aggrieved that their MP has undermined their own electoral fortunes. This demonstrates the need for the party to unite ensure that hostile elements within the PLP are confronted, isolated and effectively silenced going forward.
Of course there are no grounds for complacency. Holding our ground was merely the first prerequisite for extending our support, and picking up the momentum we’ll need as we approach 2020 - or earlier, if the civil war in the Tories escalates in the wake of the EU referendum. If Labour fails to recover some ground in Scotland, the gains needed in England to take back power will be all the greater. Yet the Corbyn leadership has proved popular in large parts of the country, including those marginals we’ll need to win back. The Cassandras have been left looking foolish. It’s now time for all sections of the party to unite behind our leader. Those giving ammunition to our opponents must be told that they will not be allowed to wreck our chances going forward.
6th May 2016
Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party?
The Editor of Labour Briefing Speaks Out
By Graham Bash
As a Jew (all my life) and Labour Party member (48 years) I am outraged at the way allegations of anti-Semitism have been used to silence legitimate criticism of Israel and undermine Jeremy Corbyn as my party’s leader.
I know what anti-Semitism is. I was brought up to learn how the Jewish East End fought with the dockers against Mosley’s fascists at Cable Street. I was told at school how it was a pity that Hitler didn’t finish off the job of murdering all Jews. And very quickly I learned what it was like to be made to feel an outsider. It was hardly surprising that I started going on anti-fascist demos in my late teens and very soon afterwards joined the Labour Party, which I remain a member of to this day.
I know what anti-Semitism is. Apart from socialist, anti-racist politics, my other love is football. How many times as a West Ham fan have I had to endure my own team’s fans singing “I never felt more like gassing the Jews”? Or being attacked by my team’s own fans for daring to put up a ‘West Ham fans United Against Racism’ banner at Upton Park.
I know what anti-Semitism is – I have a sensitive ear for anti-Semitic comments - and, without doubt, the place I have encountered it least is within the Labour Party. In 48 years, I have encountered anti-Semitism once, perhaps twice, compared to countless episodes outside.
Of course I have encountered deep antipathy to Israel, and its murderous actions to deny justice for Palestinians, but that is what I would expect from a democratic anti-racist party – and these are views shared by me and many other peace loving socialist Jews.
Throughout most of my years in the party, I have worked closely with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. They have always been the first to fight injustice and inequality and from them there has never been a hint of anti-Semitism.
What is happening in the party today is an attempt to cynically use rare examples, and usually false allegations, of anti-Semitism as part of a McCarthyite witchhunt against supporters of Jeremy. As if to prove the point, the latest victim is my own partner and anti-racist campaigner, Jackie Walker, of mixed heritage (Afro- Caribbean and Jewish), outrageously suspended from the Labour Party, simply for telling the truth that her Jewish ancestors were involved in financing the Slave Trade, that the African holocaust was even worse than the Jewish holocaust, and that anti-Semitism is not a major problem in Corbyn’s Labour Party.
I am proud of the heritage and family traditions that helped my development on the road to being an anti-racist, international socialist. This current witchhunt will not deflect me, and countless thousands like me, from the struggle for justice worldwide and for a socialist Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
* * * * *
‘I am writing to you in protest against the outrageous suspension of Jackie Walker from the Labour Party on spurious grounds of anti-Semitism. I call on you to reconsider this action and lift the suspension immediately’.
Please e-mail your protest today to the General Secretary, Iain McNicol
and copy to Ann Black firstname.lastname@example.org (Chair of NEC Disputes Panel) and Jim Kennedy Jim.Kennedy@unitetheunion.org(Chair of NEC Organisation
Labour Briefing is the Magazine of the LRC
5th May 2016
Jackie Walker Suspended: Protest!
Please take a few moments today to protest at the suspension from the Labour Party of Jackie Walker, a leading member of Momentum and the Labour Representation Committee
LRC statement on Jackie Walker
The LRC wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemns all forms of racism. We further wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemn the suspension by the Labour Party of Jackie Walker, Vice Chair of the National Steering Committee of Momentum, a leading activist in Thanet Momentum, and an Executive Committee member of the LRC for alleged anti-Semitism.
The Party suspended Ms Walker after the Jewish Chronicle brought comments made by her in Facebook posts earlier this year to the attention of Party officials.
In her comments, Ms Walker, a black activist of Jewish heritage, said that “millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews.”
“Many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice,” she said.
The Jewish Chronicle itself revealed that “her comments were uncovered by the Israel Advocacy Movement, which works to counter hostility to Israel in Britain.”
A picture emerges of a leading pro-Israeli government organisation trawling through the social media posts of Labour Party activists to brand ideas anti-Semitic when they are clearly not. The targeting of Ms Walker for remarks that have no connection to anti-Semitism suggests that senior labour movement figures, such as Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, were right when they argued that largely baseless allegations of anti-Semitism are being used by opponents to undermine and destabilise Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
The LRC welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s initiative to hold a full enquiry into anti-Semitism in the Party. Any member who actually has made anti-Semitic comments must face immediate suspension pending an investigation. But there must be an immediate end to the suspension of members on a spurious basis, into which category Jackie Walker’s suspension clearly falls.
Jackie Walker is a long-standing anti-racism campaigner who helped organise the defeat of UKIP leader Nigel Farage in Thanet at the 2015 election. Her suspension must be lifted immediately. We call on all labour movement activists to contact Labour Party Head Office to demand this.
Please send your message of protest to the General Secretary, Iain McNicol: email@example.com
and copy to
Ann Black: firstname.lastname@example.org (Chair of NEC Disputes Panel)
& Jim Kennedy: Jim.Kennedy@unitetheunion.org (Chair of NEC Organisation Committee).
Jackie Walker on Anti-semitism
On anti-Semitism in the Labour Party ......
Yes, for many outside of politics the debate on anti-semitism may be irrelevant. But those of us ‘inside’ with the knowledge and interest around the terms of the debate have the responsibility of taking into account the importance, the power of words and the way apparently small changes of vocabulary and emphasis can transform the terms of a struggle. This is a lesson black peoples have understood since slavery.
The statement by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty on anti-semitism concedes to, and is complicit in, a lie; that there is a major problem with anti-semitism in the Labour Party. Like everywhere in British society the Labour Party fails, and fails too often, to be what we would want it to be - a bastion of socialism and internationalism.
The chief victims of those failures however are not people of Jewish descent, but are the many other representatives of other minorities underrepresented in the structures of the LP and discriminated against inside and outside the LP economically, culturally and politically in contemporary Britain. To sign this statement concedes too much and reflects a lack of appreciation not just of Labour Party history and politics, but of the history of minorities in British society.
3rd May 2016
Dodgy Dave has given us an enormous opportunity
John McDonnell‘s column in the May 2016 issue of Labour Briefing.
Labour Briefing is the magazine of the LRC.
It’s seven years on since the bankers and speculators who had turned our economy into a casino, brought about the credit crunch and the worst recession since the great depression of the 1930s.
It’s been seven years of crushing austerity. The cuts in benefits and wage freezes have forced a million a year to queue at food banks to feed their families. The statistics of disabled people assessed for work who have died before being able to take up work, are shocking. The stress caused by the pressure being placed upon those out of work and in work has produced reported incidence of mental health conditions at epidemic proportions.
Independent analysis confirms that 80% of the cuts have fallen on women. The distributional analysis recently published by the Women’s Budget Group has demonstrated that if you calculate the total impact of tax cuts, cuts in benefits and the withdrawal of services, it is the poorest decile in our society that have been hit the hardest and the richest that have born the least burden of austerity.
Two groups in particular have been hit hard – young women with young children, and older, retired women. Older women suffer so much because in our culture caring responsibilities still fall the most on women. As caring services are cut the burden has fallen upon older women.
From the outset the left argued that austerity was a political choice and not an economic necessity. Time and time again this has been demonstrated by the decisions taken by Cameron and Osborne. In the latest budget it was starkly proven once again when Osborne chose to reduce inheritance tax and capital gains tax on the top 5% - paid for by cutting the benefits to disabled people by £30 a week. The Panama papers prove that austerity was totally unnecessary. $21 trillion is estimated to be hidden in tax havens. Tax avoidance has been produced on an industrial scale by the major accountancy firms and banks located in the City of London. Successive governments have turned a blind eye. Worse still the accountancy firms have permeated government and opposition party tax policy making.
The left has repeatedly argued that if the rich and the corporations paid their taxes the deficit would have been eradicated, debt would be on the downturn and our economy would be growing as a result of a sustained investment programme in our infrastructure, skills and public services.
The lid has been blown off the corrupt, inefficient and undemocratic political and economic settlement that has been imposed upon our society in recent years. A window of opportunity has opened up for us to expose the grotesque unfairness of our tax system and set out Labour’s offer of a fair and just alternative. We have started with the publication of a Tax Transparency Enforcement Programme, aiming to force through the registration of information held by companies and trusts in the UK and tax havens to tackle evasion and avoidance, plus the proper resourcing of HMRC to secure effective action against the evaders and avoiders.
The next stages will need to include a programme of action to regulate effectively the accountancy firms and banks which are at the heart of devising the avoidance schemes and also to develop a tax base which reflects the way the economy operates today and which is inherently fairer and more efficient in collecting the taxes due.
Interestingly over recent weeks, alongside the public outrage at the scandalous tax dodging of the super rich and corporations, shareholders’ anger has spilled over in a number of companies at the pay awards of senior executives - often in firms whose performance has been poor. The vote by shareholders of BP to reject pay awards was significant but not the only manifestation of this shareholder fury. Yet again the system has been judged to run counter to what is generally accepted to be fair and productive.
Shareholders may not at first appear to be the natural members or allies of the labour and trade union movement. However the tactic of seeking to use shareholder power and influence has long been used by progressive causes and trade unions over the years to highlight the injustices or unfair practices of a company.
And so alongside the left’s campaign to secure tax justice, now is also the time for the left to link shareholder action to Labour’s overall campaign for greater economic democracy and social justice in our economy overall. In this way we have the opportunity to create a broad alliance for an efficient, successful and fair economy.
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.
1st May 2016
Labour, Antisemitism and Jeremy Corbyn
Letter to Guardian 30.04.16
We are Jewish members and supporters of the Labour party and of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, who wish to put our perspective on the “antisemitism” controversy that has been widely debated in the last few weeks (Labour’s antisemitism crisis as Livingstone suspended, 29 April). We do not accept that antisemitism is “rife” in the Labour party. Of the examples that have been repeated in the media, many have been reported inaccurately, some are trivial, and a very few may be genuine examples of antisemitism. The tiny number of cases of real antisemitism need to be dealt with, but we are proud that the Labour party historically has been in the forefront of the fight against all forms of racism. We, personally, have not experienced any antisemitic prejudice in our dealings with Labour party colleagues.
We believe these accusations are part of a wider campaign against the Labour leadership, and they have been timed particularly to do damage to the Labour party and its prospects in elections in the coming week. As Jews, we are appalled that a serious issue is being used in this cynical and manipulative way, diverting attention from much more widespread examples of Islamophobia and xenophobia in the Conservative and other parties. We dissociate ourselves from the misleading attacks on Labour from some members of the Jewish community. We urge others, who may be confused or worried by recent publicity, to be sure that the Labour party, under its present progressive leadership, is a place where Jews are welcomed in a spirit of equality and solidarity.
Miriam E David
Professor Stephen Deutsch
Dr William Fleming
Alex J Goldhill
Becka Seglow Hudson
Charles Shaar Murray
Professor Mica Nava
Rabbi Jeffrey Newman
Dr Brian Robinson
Jeff Daniel Rollin
Dr Ian Saville
Professor John Yudkin
30th April 2016
Greece needs a Europe for working people
Greek dock worker addresses British workers
By Barbara Humphries
The Greece Solidarity Campaign held a meeting at the UNITE headquarters in London on Wednesday 26th April, which was addressed by Giorgos Gogos, Chair of the Piraeus dockers. He spoke about the plans to privatise the port of Piraeus. This is part of the massive programme of privatisation forced upon the SYRIZA government, by the terms of the Third Memorandum, the austerity programme of the TROIKA, the European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. Under the terms of this Memorandum, the Greek government is being required to privatise £5 billion of assets, the largest privatisation programme to be carried out anywhere in Europe. The selling off of the terminal ports of Piraeus (Athens) and Salonika (Northern Greece) are included in this programme. The Greek trades unions are completely opposed to this privatisation which is due to take place over the summer, as the Chinese company COSCO is poised to take a 51% stake in the port. It already has two containers in Piraeus since 2009 and sees it as an entrance for the transportation of goods from Asia across the European Union.
Greek trades unions say that privatisation will have a negative effect on the wages and conditions of dock workers, but will also affect the livelihoods of many others across the municipality. COSCO has a poor record of industrial relations and hostility towards small local businesses which use the port. With ferry links so important to connecting the Greek Islands to Athens, both for local people and tourists, it is feared that privatisation will bring about fare increases on a large scale. The campaign against privatisation has been taken out to the local community by the unions.
Giorgos Gogos has addressed port workers in the UK, at Southampton and Felixstowe, appealing for solidarity. He said that the European establishment wanted to bring down SYRIZA, to set an example to other left parties and movements across Europe. Greece cannot be left to fight on alone in this and at its conference in July, UNITE will discuss a resolution from its London and South-Eastern region to call a conference of trades unions and socialist parties across Europe, to discuss policies for an alternative Europe for working people.
29th April 2016
Does Labour Have a ‘Problem with Jews’?
For an excellent analysis of the relationship between antisemitism and Zionism, read David Rosenberg’s article in the current issue of Labour Briefing:
David, from the Jewish Socialists’ Group, has added the following comments:
In recent days, interventions by several people, including many Jewish left wing activists, have begun to deconstruct the “problem with antisemitism” that the Left, and the Labour Party in particular, is charged with, mostly by people with nefarious agendas.
It has also been acknowledged that there are a small number of real incidents that must be addressed. Make no mistake: Ken Livingstone’s crass intervention
yesterday was a massive setback for those efforts, and a free gift to those manipulating the issue for right wing purposes.
Everything that was so wrong about what he said is way too long to put in a Facebook post but in headlines - Hitler’s poisonous attitudes to ALL Jews regardless of their political leanings, his portrayal of them as a cancer and a danger to humanity that he wanted to remove from German life, were well established long before 1932, when he wrote Mein Kampf (1925 and ‘27). The Holocaust was not about one person suddenly going “mad and killing 6 million Jews”.
Like elsewhere in Europe, Zionists were a weak and marginal force in Germany’s Jewish community. Any talk of “Nazi-Zionist collaboration”, “Nazi Zionist deals” etc without reference to the massive power imbalance is nonsense. Some Zionists tried to exploit Nazi intentions to remove Jews from German
society. The vast majority of German Zionists shared the same fate as most German non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews - they were reduced to ashes.
My plea to fellow anti-racist, anti-Zionist, socialist activists is: don’t waste any of your precious time today trying to rationalise, defend or explain away Livingstone’s comments, but concentrate on challenging the terms of the debate as set by the right-wing alliance that are exploiting this whole issue.
Concentrate on how to persuade and split off those who are genuinely worried about rising antisemitism from those exploiting the issues. Concentrate on showing how the Left can demonstrate that the fight against antisemitism is tied up with the fight against all racism including Islamophobia; concentrate on exposing how those feigning sympathy for Jews are implicated in racism against others; and concentrate on ways to ensure free speech and rational debate about the realities of what Zionism and Israeli policy is enacting daily against the Palestinians.
26th April 2016
BHS: “the unacceptable face of capitalism”.
By Mick Brooks
11,000 completely innocent people are in danger of losing their livelihoods. Retailer BHS has gone under.
How did this come to pass? Even Tory MP Richard Fuller called management conduct “the unacceptable face of capitalism”.
The chain was bought by Philip Green in 2000 for £200m. Throughout the period that he ran the business, Green was highly praised in the financial press as a canny operator. After the purchase shareholders, mainly Green and his wife Tina, relieved BHS of £422m in dividends they paid themselves. Technically the firm was owned in the name of Tina, who conveniently lived in the tax haven Monaco.
These two tax-dodging slimeballs were systematically looting BHS. I do not consider myself to be entrepreneurial. But even on my occasional visits to West Ealing’s branch to buy a pair of socks (it’s the only clothes shop in the area) it was clear that the shops were being completely run down by management.
The Greens are the UK’s 29th richest household, said to be ‘worth’ £3.22bn, according to the 2016 Sunday Times Rich List. Others, including BHS employees, may have a different view of what they’re worth. They have just taken delivery of a 90 metre super-yacht called Lionheart. They are clearly taking the mickey.
When he had done the damage and extracted all he could from the chain, Green sold it on for £1 in 2015. It was bought by a group led by Dominic Chappell, a man who has twice been declared bankrupt. He continued in the fine tradition of BHS management of looting the firm and sucking it dry. BHS, though clearly struggling by this time, paid lavish fees to his firm, Retail Acquisitions, and enough in salary so that Chappell could run out and buy a yacht (of course!). BHS was also borrowing money to pay to the directors of Retail Acquisitions. When they had squeezed every penny they could out of the firm, Chappell and co put it into administration.
In addition to 11,000 employees BHS has 20,000 people dependent on their company pension. The pension fund was in surplus when Green took over in 2000. Clearly he had been dipping his hands into the pension fund as well. It now has a deficit of £571m.
Who can help the pensioners? The Pension Protection Fund may have to bail them out. This is a government body which is apparently devised for the sole purpose of offering protection to the innocent from the depredations of the guilty, like Green and Chappell. Many will feel that Green and his like should at the very least be dipping deep into their ill-gotten gains to compensate. They may also think that Green, rather than being knighted for his ‘achievements’, ought to be in prison.
Even a Tory MP recognises that the BHS case study shows “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. Is there an acceptable face to be seen anywhere?
19th April 2016
We are going to vote for Europe, to change Europe.
Letter to Guardian from Labour politicians 17.04.16
We are tired of the companies that abuse their global status to avoid their tax responsibilities or to play one natVote for Europe to Change Europeion’s workers or governments off against others. We want international rules to clamp down on climate change. And we demand humane ways to deal with the growing numbers of migrants and a rebalancing of wealth, income and opportunity across the whole of Europe through new solidarity funds that move as people move.
We know we must stay in Europe if we are ever to get a financial transaction tax; if we are to develop a progressive alternative to TTIP that levels social and environmental protections up, not down; and if we are to build the public platforms for renewable energy, and even new media platforms that are publicly owned and accountable.
We know too that none of this will be easy. But there is no choice. Sovereignty has long escaped national borders and is never coming back. As tough as it is, we have to create a trans-national democratic political and economic union. It is the only hope the left has. If the EU didn’t exist we would build it now – different and better, yes – but we would still build it.
This is not Cameron’s or the Tories’ Europe. This is a Europe inspired by the social and democratic values of Labour. This is a unique moment in which the fate of Britain and Europe will be sealed. The Labour party, Labour members and supporters will be critical. The choice is not exit or surrender but how we transform Europe. Working with social democrats across the continent, victory on 23 June, if we achieve it, is just the starting point for the Europe we want.
John McDonnell MP
Margaret Beckett MP
Clive Lewis MP
Lisa Nandy MP
Emily Thornberry MP
Cat Smith MP
Steve Rotheram MP
Jonathan Reynolds MP
Chris Bryant MP
Rachael Maskell MP
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP
Jo Stevens MP
Louise Haigh MP
Angela Rayner MP
Dave Anderson MP
Richard Burden MP
Peter Dowd MP
Chris Matteson MP
Justin Madders MP
Richard Howitt MEP
Lucy Anderson MEP
Baroness Oona King
Baroness Joan Bakewell
Lord Foster of Bishop Auckland
8th April 2016
John McDonnell on the Panama Papers Scandal
John McDonnell wrote in the ‘Guardian’ on this issue.
The link to his article is here
6th April 2016
LRC Annual General Meeting 2016
Details Now Available
Saturday 29th October
University of London Union
Further Details to be Announced
Put the Date in your Diary Now!
4th April 2016
Save our Steel. The Case for Nationalisation
By Mick Brooks
The threatened closure of the Tata Port Talbot steel works puts 15,000 jobs directly at risk. All in all 40,000 jobs could go, with the British steel industry decimated and working class communities devastated.
The Tory government has shown incompetence and worse in the face of the crisis. Sajid Javid, the minister directly responsible, went off on a jolly to Australia in the full knowledge that a vital Tata board meeting was poised to take a decision on the industry’s future.
Critics have pointed out that:
• Warning signs such as the closure of Redcar were completely ignored.
• UK steel was made to pay much higher business rates than its competitors.
• Energy prices are much higher in the UK than elsewhere.
• There was no instruction to public bodies to buy British where possible.
• The UK has consistently argued against protective tariffs on Chinese steel in the councils of the European Union (EU).
The Tories have disadvantaged the domestic steel industry in every way possible. Now they say they will reverse some of these policies. Too little, too late.
Is this just indifference? When Javid finally met the steel workers he hushed them up with talk of ‘commercial sensitivities’. The Guardian suggests (02.04.16) that “the purpose of the meetings had been to ‘muzzle’ outspoken figures fighting to save jobs in south Wales.” In other words the Tories are taking advantage of the desperation of trade unionists and community leaders to co-operate to save steel jobs in order to stop them speaking out and fighting the closure effectively. If true this is contemptible, but all too typical.
There is also suspicion that the Tories are soft on China because they are dependent on Chinese expertise to build and run their Hinckley white elephant nuclear power station in Somerset. Their behaviour has been abject.
But even if the government had been prepared to stick up for British steel jobs, there is a global crisis to deal with. The world is awash with steel. China has been blamed. Chinese industry is 70% state owned. These state owned corporations have privileged access to loans from the state owned banks. A free world market in steel is a fiction. Every country is striving to protect its own steel industry by all means necessary.
China produces half the world’s steel, 806 million tonnes last year. But this is likely to fall to 783 million tonnes in 2016 because of global overcapacity. China will drop 23 million tonnes this year, more than twice the UK’s total output. Chinese steel workers are also suffering from the crisis.
Overcapacity has provoked a full scale price war. The USA has imposed tariffs of 266% on some Chinese steel products! The EU has a much slower, more bureaucratic procedure to protect the European steel industry from unfair competition, made worse by sabotage from the UK.
Protective tariffs may be necessary as a short term emergency measure; but they are in any case by no means sufficient to save British steel. It is quite clear that private ownership has failed the industry.
Even before the Second World War it was evident that British steel was falling behind its main rivals, Germany and the USA. The industry was briefly nationalised by the 1945-51 Labour government but immediately privatised when the Tories took office afterwards. The Restrictive Practices Court discovered in 1964 that the industry was effectively run by a cartel, the British Iron and Steel Federation, a price-fixing ring which ran as a conspiracy against the public. Ten firms produced 80% of British steel. The Wilson Labour government renationalised the industry in 1967, but made mistakes in doing so.
The British Steel Corporation (BSC) was loaded with excessive compensation to the private owners. For instance Colville’s share price was28 shillings (£1.40) in 1965, yet the old owners got 47/6d (£2.37) per share. Interest payments to the capitalists who had sucked the industry dry burdened BSC for years to come, as did the longstanding lack of investment. In addition BSC was run just like a capitalist firm by managers recruited from the private sector. There was no attempt to tap the enthusiasm of the workforce for a new beginning in the industry by introducing workers’ control.
Lord Melchett was one such Chair of BSC. He joked that if there was no investment within ten years British steel could be turned into an industrial museum for visitors from Japan to marvel at. Most notoriously Ian MacGregor was appointed as Chair in 1980 by Margaret Thatcher. At that time there were142,000 workers in the industry, MacGregor’s brief was to close plants, slaughter jobs and take on the unions. That is what he did. He then went on as head of the Coal Board to take on the miners in the 1984-85 strike.
The steel industry was privatised by Thatcher in 1988 and merged with a Dutch firm to form Corus. At the time this was the third biggest steel maker in the world. The decline of UK steel continued in private hands, and British steel was sold to the Indian firm Tata in 2007. Now it seems Tata wants to pull out. Private steel owners have been afflicted by chronic short-termism. The steel industry has been passed around like a parcel from one owner to another
It has been the plaything of private interests for too long. In 1947 Labour published a pamphlet contemplating steel nationalisation. It stated: “In controlling this industry, upon which the whole economy depends, these men are answerable not to the nation but to sectional interests, interests which look upon steel as just a way of making money – like dance halls or snack bars.”
This remains true. The nation needs steel. The steel industry must be nationalised, but not like last time. British steel needs workers’ control and management. We need to work out democratically what sort of steel industry we need and develop a long term plan not just to save the jobs but also to formulate a long term growth strategy for the future.
Polls show that 62% of the population supports steel nationalisation. They are right. The Tories will ask, ‘How can we afford nationalisation’? The alternative is to pay workers to rot on the dole and destroy working class communities. We can’t afford NOT to take over steel.
When the banks such as RBS, HBOS and Lloyds TSB failed in 2008, the Labour government pumped money in - billions of our money. Northern Rock was nationalised outright. In total we shelled out £1.2trn. The Labour leadership felt that we needed the banks. An industrial country needs a steel industry much more than bankers who gamble with our money and come crying to the taxpayer to bail them out when they lose.
The Tories have ruled out nationalisation. They intend to butcher the industry. But in the last budget they handed out money to the rich in the form of cuts in Capital Gains Tax, Corporation Tax and Income Tax for high earners. The money is there. The need is there. It’s time to take over the steel industry.
28th March 2016
Jeremy Corbyn’s Aberdare Speech
Verbatim Report of a Recent Speech Commemorating Keir Hardie
Thank you for inviting me and thank you to Cynon Valley CLP and Ann Clwyd for organising it. It is an honour to be here in Aberdare, Wales to give the Keir Hardie Lecture and thank you all for coming.
At Labour Party conference last year I spoke at the launch of a new book about Keir Hardie, ‘What Would Keir Hardie Say?’ edited by Pauline Bryan to which I contributed a chapter.
Little did I know when I submitted my piece that I would be following in Keir’s footsteps and soon becoming the Leader of the Labour Party.
Who would have thought it would take 100 years for our party to elect another bearded leader?
I would also recommend Caroline Benn’s biography of Keir. For anyone who doesn’t know, Tony Benn had Keir Hardie’s chair in his house – I sat in it many times. It was extraordinarily uncomfortable. I always thought that the discomfort was an incentive not to talk for too long at meetings!
Friends, it is a great honour to be Labour Leader it is a great honour to be talking about a great man who did more to found our party than any other and who still inspires us to this day.
Tonight, I don’t want to give an historical lecture about Keir Hardie’s life I want us to consider how Keir Hardie continues to inspire and inform us today.
Keir was born in Scotland but he represented a parliamentary seat in England, West Ham South in London’s east end and later here in Wales.
Keir Hardie knew this part of Wales well and got to know many other parts of Britain too because of his work in solidarity with mineworkers all over the country.
He got to know the south Wales coalfields during a six month miners’ strike in the late nineteenth century and then became the local MP for Merthyr and Aberdare.
Talking of Aberdare, I am pleased that this week a son of this great area the PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has rejoined our party.
It is very welcome that thousands of people have joined and rejoined our party doubling our membership and made our party a mass movement again.
Mark Serwotka said a few years ago “Call centres are the new dark satanic mills.We have people who have to put their hand up to ask to go to the toilet. It may not be a factory or a steel foundry, but they’re very difficult jobs, the turnover rates are huge, low paid, oppressive.”
Today the mines are gone but injustice remains in the workplace. That’s why Labour will soon be launching Workplace 2020 – the biggest ever discussion about the world of work. It will be led by our shadow minister for trade unions and civil society, Ian Lavery MP, a former President of the National Union of
The Conservative government boasts of record employment but they can also boast record in-work poverty too. We want more jobs, but they can be good jobs quantity and quality.
For too many people today work is insecure, hours are unstable. Instability at work leads to instability at home.
We have the scourge of low pay, zero hours contracts, temporary agency workers, umbrella companies and bogus self-employment, workfare, unpaid internships and some low quality apprenticeships being used to circumvent the minimum wage legislation.
Minimum wage legislation by the way that Keir Hardie called for and a Labour government delivered and it is Labour councils across the UK that are promoting the living wage. And it is unions like the Bakers whose young inspiring members I recently met in Scarborough that are campaigning for £10 per hour.
And we must also end the scourge of blacklisting. Hardie became a union official and organiser because he was blacklisted as a worker in 1879. He started working in the mines aged 11 and it took him until he was 23 to be blacklisted – obviously a late bloomer!
Seriously though, I want to pay tribute to the work of UCATT, GMB and Unite in campaigning against blacklisting and for the full inquiry that the victims deserve.
So much time has passed, but the fundamental structures of work and sadly many of the abuses … remain unchanged. Unaccountable forces set your pay, your working hours, your working conditions, whether you have a decent pension so much power, so little accountability – unless we force it.
Trade unions were founded to rebalance that power, to organise people together to fight for their rights. Trade unions are the greatest force for equality – when trade unions are weak inequality rises when trade unions are strong inequality reduces.
Keir Hardie knew that. I know it. And the Tories know it too. That’s why they’re trying to force through their Trade Union Bill. The UK already has the most restrictive trade union laws in Europe and the Tories want to tighten them further.
It was only the action of Labour MEPs in partnership with trade unions that ensured workers’ rights were kept off Cameron’s EU negotiations.
Labour is united in fighting the Trade Union Bill we are opposing it in the Commons and in the Lords.
And when Labour is re-elected in 2020 we will repeal that Tory legislation and we will go further – informed by our Workplace 2020 discussions – and set out a modern agenda of strengthened workplace and trade union rights.
Like Hardie, I too believe the House of Lords should be abolished, but as long as it’s there, we will use it as best we can to resist.
And we did that on tax credits Labour forced the government into a u-turn which has saved 3 million families over £1,000 a year, from this April.
I am proud of the tax credits that the last Labour government brought in. They are a lifeline to working people and – with a record six million workers in Britain now paid less than the living wage – they are more necessary than ever.
In Parliament, he faced a baying mob of Tory MPs who derided him as the ‘Member for the Unemployed’. He saw that as a badge of honour rather than an insult. He wasn’t ashamed to stand up for the nemployed, the disabled, those injured at work.
Keir Hardie spoke with vision, with passion, with clarity. He acted with determination and courage – our party would not exist without it. It would not have achieved all it has done over the last century.
And yet many of our members and supporters felt Labour had lost its way. Many people say one of the turning points of the leadership contest was the decision to abstain on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.
Keir Hardie never lived to see one of Labour’s greatest yet under-appreciated achievements – the welfare state. We founded the social security system to eradicate poverty, end homelessness and destitution – to create a safety net through which no one should fall.
Social security saves lives, prevents misery and creates opportunity. It is funded collectively for the good of all – “from each according to their means, to each according to their needs”.
Since September, we as a party have opposed the Tories’ Welfare Reform & Work Bill and we have defeated the government on some elements of it.
I was elected Leader not for who I am, but because members wanted a re-commitment to our values. Not to turn back the clock to 1906 or 1945 or 1997, but because members wanted to know our party was committed to setting out a bold vision to create a fairer society and a better world inspired by the values that have guided our movement and led to our greatest achievements; the NHS, the welfare state, comprehensive education, council housing, the minimum wage, and all the equalities legislation that Labour governments delivered.
The leadership contest wasn’t about electing me, Jeremy Corbyn, it was about the party re-asserting those values, re-asserting itself as a campaigning social movement.
Now we must – together – develop the policies from those values that convince the country and get us elected in 2020.
Keir Hardie took a lot of jibes and he wore them with pride. He came to Parliament to represent working class people and he took that responsibility seriously.
Parliament isn’t a forum to get a newspaper column, a better media profile, a stepping stone to cushy corporate job or an ego boost. We – as Labour MPs – are elected to Parliament to represent people, to make society better for them, we are there to work hard for our constituents as I aspire to and as I know Ann Clwyd always has for you here in Cynon Valley.
Keir Hardie was once asked by a House of Commons attendant, “Are you working here mate?” Hardie answered “I am”. The attendant then enquired, “where, on the roof?”. Hardie is said to have replied, “no, on the floor”. The House of Commons chamber is often referred to as ‘the floor’.
When he first took his seat in 1892 Hardie refused to wear the ‘parliamentary uniform’ of black frock coat, black silk top hat and starched wing collar. Instead, Hardie wore a plain tweed suit, a red tie and a deerstalker. He was lambasted in the press, “cloth cap in Parliament” said one headline.
At least we have moved on from such trivialities today.
But we commemorate Keir Hardie not for what he wore but for what he stood for. Let’s just go through a few of the policies that Keir fought for:
Healthy homes and fair rents – tragically a demand that is still necessary today. When housebuilding has fallen to its lowest level since the 1920s, when rents are rising, evictions are up, homelessness is up and home ownership is falling because people are priced out.
And last month the Tories opposed a Labour amendment to the housing bill which insisted that any home for rent must be fit for human habitation.
Hardie called for a graduated income tax, progressive taxation, yet the Tories cut the 50p rate on the rich to 45p and rumours suggest they may scrap it altogether in the Budget in two weeks’ time.
Even worse they call it a “major success” when they convince big multinational companies to pay just 2% in tax. At Treasury questions, John McDonnell, our shadow chancellor, asked George Osborne about tax justice, the Chancellor looked blank. John replied, “google it!”
Labour would tackle these abuses.
Earlier this week I was invited to speak at the British Chamber of Commerce conference. Some may say they’re not our natural allies.
I disagree. In her biography of Keir, Caroline Benn wrote:
“He profoundly believed the entrepreneur was as ill-served by giant cartels and monopolies as were working men”
I agree. We want to clamp down on the abuses that force employers into a race to the bottom. How can it be right that my local coffee shop pay its taxes, yet the corporate coffee chain next door shifts its tax liabilities abroad? How can tech start-ups grow when established global giants get ‘mates rates’ deals?
By creating a level playing field, strong employment rights, fair taxes, strong rights for consumers too, we stop the undercutting of good businesses by bad businesses.
Tax is not a burden; it is the price we pay to live in a civilised society. And let us be clear, this government has cut taxes for the rich; slashed taxes for large corporations.
Hardie also supported devolution. Again later delivered by a Labour government.But more importantly look at what a Labour government has delivered here in Wales thanks for devolution. I think Keir Hardie would be proud of:
No trebling of student fees
No fights picked with junior doctors
The social care budget protected
The Education Maintenance Allowance abolished by the Tories protected by Labour Wales
Thanks to Hardie and the other Labour MPs elected in 1906, the Education (Provision of Meals) Act was delivered, providing school meals to children and the Wales Labour government has gone further with a free breakfast for all primary school pupils.
Hardie also stood for the women’s right to vote at a time when it was not popular, even sadly in parts of the labour movement. He was arrested for supporting women’s suffrage.
As we approach International Women’s Day (next week, 8 Mar), remember it was Labour that fought for equal votes, Labour that delivered the Equal Pay Act, Labour that delivered the Equalities Act, and Labour that now has a shadow cabinet that has a majority of women.
Keir stood for peace, internationalism, equal rights. To him these weren’t just abstract concepts, but concrete beliefs that informed everything he campaigned for in his political life.
Keir’s life, impressive by any standards, had a universal and global vision that was very different from many other great Labour figures of that period.
This year marks 100 years since the senseless barbarity of the Somme. Hardie died just a few months before it. But just two days before the first world war was declared, he spoke in Trafalgar Square at a rally where a declaration was adopted. It concluded by stating:
“Men and women of Britain, you now have an unexampled opportunity of showing your power, rendering magnificent service to
humanity and to the world. Proclaim
for you that the days of plunder and
butchery have gone by. Send messages
of peace and fraternity to your fellows who have less liberty than
It was a deeply unpopular stance to take at the time. Hardie was hounded at his home and on the street as unpatriotic.
There is nothing less patriotic than sending young British men – and it was mostly men – to die without good cause. And Hardie was a great defender of those who conscientiously objected to war.
As socialists, we are internationalists. We reject the jingoism of ‘my country right or wrong’ whether we see our country as Wales, England, Hardie’s native Scotland, or as Britain.
Hardie worked hard to unite all peace groups as he knew the dreadful day would arrive when Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the Ottoman empire would all be at war – with millions of working men lined up against each other.
As one of the organisers of the 2003 anti-war demonstration in London, I was acutely aware of the breadth of the support and the global nature of the peace movement.
Perhaps the strongest message a century on is that a world of peace can only come by opposing militarism, campaigning for and building a socially just economic system and through the complex work of conflict resolution and sustaining peace.
Syria presents a huge challenge for today’s political leadership. It means patient, difficult diplomacy, working with those we may disagree with.
We have a responsibility to the British people and to the Syrian people. We can’t take the easy option of doing nothing or the other easy option of pretending that dropping bombs can solve complex problems. The world is a complex place and we have to engage in meaningful efforts to secure a more peaceful world.
Neither can we wash our hands of the consequences of wars. The massive refugee crisis should shame us all. It will only be resolved by nations acting collectively to address this and other major international problems, like climate change, tax avoidance, terrorism, trade and human rights.
Keir Hardie knew that working for peace was difficult. I know that. The complexities of 21st century geopolitics are different, but the principles that should inform our decisions endure.
That is why are campaigning to stay in the European Union. The EU is imperfect, but many of its imperfections are those of its constituent parts. It has the potential to deliver as it has when Labour has led in Europe, like on the agency workers’ directive.
Our mission now is the same as that which he laid out just 21 years into the Labour Party’s existence, when he said that the movement would not rest until “the sunshine of Socialism and human freedom break forth upon our land.”
I couldn’t think of a better prescription for what our country needs to break through the narrow, nasty, divisive politics of the Conservatives.
Labour is about building a society and an economy that works for all.
“Socialism makes war upon a system” said Keir Hardie, but Socialism also builds a system as it says on our Labour membership cards, “in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few”.
That is what we must do.
Let us be inspired by the vision and the campaigning energy of Keir Hardie – and deliver that better world.
The elections this May are a choice, a chance to vote for a Labour Party that is standing up, not standing by.
Austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity. The Tories are making unfair choices and putting family prosperity at risk.
The Tories won’t stand up for working people. The choices they are making, cutting in-work support while millionaires get tax breaks, are a risk to family finances while their failure to invest for the future is putting the economy at
Labour will stand up for people to build an economy which works for all, one where prosperity is shared, pay is fair and jobs are secure.
We will stand up for families struggling to buy or rent a home, by delivering more and better housing.
We will stand up against the unfair Tory cuts to protect the vital public services we all rely on. We will protect neighbourhood policing and oppose the deep Tory cuts to the police. And we will invest in the NHS to rescue it from Tory neglect – joining up services from home to hospital so it’s fit for the
Vote Labour this May – we will stand up for you.
28th March 2016
The Future of the LRC
This is a useful summary of the organisational changes adopted at our recent Special General Meeting in response to the changing political situation. We will hold an Annual General Meeting later this year to finalise these changes.
Amended and agreed at NC meeting on 28th November 2015
The Labour Representation Committee needs to be streamlined in its communication methods, both face to face and online. Rather than have an executive committee which meets and then takes proposals to a National Committee we propose to combine these to form a leaner more pro-active National Executive Committee (NEC), members of which will take part in running the organisation.
Members: One officer task which requires streamlining is: membership. We will aim to provide self-registration online, with an automatic receipt being provided by a system. (Postal members will have to be managed manually – but we ask for email addresses at every opportunity.) Dependent on funds, we will aim to provide an online discussion area for members and local groups. The system will request Labour Party CLP information on entry form, as well as union membership. There will of course be exceptional circumstances for non-LP members or supporters, who don’t belong to organisations who stand against Labour.
Steering group (for the period between SGM and AGM). During the transition stage, it will be the existing National Committee. Constitution changes are required to satisfy the new structure; these are being worked on and will be sent out with the Meeting invitation.
Working Body (NEC) proposal for next AGM.
• Honorary President
• Chair & vice chairs(2)/Secretary/Treasurer/Admin/Memberships/Web (at least 4 women)
• National Unions, National Affiliates (1 place per 100 members (maximum 2 seats) – gender balance preferred if possible) Responsible for promoting LRC membership amongst their own memberships
• 8 members nominated by affiliates or other members. (aim for at least 4 women) Must be prepared to take on responsibilities for running the organisation.
• 1 each LGBT/Disabilities/BAME responsible for recruiting, representing and spreading the word.
• 2 representatives for local groups (1 north /1 south) To run a sub-committee of local groups and to increase national coverage of groups.
• All above will be elected at the following AGM
• Co-options by the NEC where and when necessary for administrative tasks
• Some decisions and meetings to be held online to save travel costs.
• Union branches/regions as before. CLPs & Branches as before
• Local groups: Geographically no larger than borough wide in London or no larger than county-wide outside London. Groups must be properly constituted and minuted with minimum number of attendees. Eventually each recognised group will have presence on website – with relevant communication methods. Local group constitution changes are required.
• Each recognised group & regional/branch affiliate has the right to raise motions to AGM conference.
Membership fee: New rates £14 waged; £7 unwaged or low waged, to be voted on at AGM.
24th March 2016
Stop the Labour Purge
Rule change for CLPs to submit to Labour Party conference 2016: “A disciplinary code that meets standards of natural justice”
We are promoting the following rule change for Constituency Labour Parties to submit to Labour NB CLPs can submit one rule change OR one policy motion to the conference. If successful at conference, the rule change will have to pass again next year to come into effect. But we need to get started!
A disciplinary code that meets standards of natural justice
In Chapter 1 Clause 1 Section 3:
Amend sub-section B to read: “support Labour candidates in elections and assist the Party in its activity”.
Delete sub-section C.
Delete section 4 and renumber subsequent sections accordingly.
Add a new section 8: The NCC may exclude members from the Party for breach of the conditions set out in this Clause. Those members must have written notice of the charges against them, adequate time to prepare a reply, and a hearing at the NCC or a panel of the NCC as set out in Chapter 6 of these rules.
In Chapter 6 Clause 1 Section 1, delete “on whatever basis or by automatic exclusion under Chapter 2.4.A above of the membership rules”.
Several hundreds of exclusions in the run-up to the 2015 Labour Party leadership election and a number since have been carried out.
Many have been “automatic exclusions” under Chapter 2 Clause 4 (A). An “automatic exclusion” means that those excluded have no notice of the charges against them until after they are excluded; no hearing; and no right of appeal.
The possible grounds for these “automatic exclusions” are so broad that probably the big majority of Party members can be “automatically excluded” if a Compliance Unit official so wishes. “A member of the Party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party” can be automatically excluded, which means that any member of CLPD, or CND, or Progress, or Friends of the Earth, is vulnerable.
Natural justice demands that the grounds for exclusion be made more precise (the text that remains unamended in Chapter 1 Clause 1 is sufficient for that); notice of charges; and a hearing in front of a constitutionally-established and accountable body.
24th March 2016
CLPD Proposed Rule Changes
The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy is proposing the following rule changes to be proposed at Labour Party Conference 2016:
Clarify the rules for electing Leader to avoid the Party being involved in legal battles
Ensuring a democratic choice in Labour Leadership elections - when there is a vacancy
CLPs to have the right to submit a rule change AND a contemporary motion
Policy Reports: end the choice between all or nothing. Allow conference to vote in parts
Abolish the obsolete one year’s delay re rule changes from CLPs
Remove the arbitrary criterion of ‘contemporary’ in relation to annual conference motions
Full involvement by party branches and branches of affiliated organisations in the selection of Westminster candidates
A two term limit for elected Mayors
A new Local Government Committee structure (instead of the existing Local Campaign Forum)
A democratic Young Labour
24th March 2016
Labour CND and Trident:
Request for Submissions
HELP GET A LABOUR PARTY COMMITMENT NOT TO REPLACE TRIDENT
Emily Thornberry, Shadow Defence Secretary has published her terms of reference for Labour’s defence policy review (attached), asking individual members and local parties to send submissions before 30 April 2016. Labour CND urges you to make your opposition to Trident known, and to encourage your branch and constituency to do likewise.
Emily points to the changed nature of security threats facing Britain today, and asks ‘what role should Britain play in building a world that is more peaceful, more just and safer’.
Her key question on Trident is: Will renewal of Britain’s nuclear capability aid us in protecting Britain’s security and pursuing the values that guide our foreign and defence policy?
Branch and Constituency Submissions
Please ensure that your CLP passes a resolution demanding that the Trident missile system should not be replaced, and sends it to the Defence Policy Review. You are the best judge of how to maximise support for such a resolution. But consider keeping it as short as possible, and if you need suggestions, please get in touch with Labour CND.
If your CLP has already made decisions on defence and security policy, ask that these are communicated to the Review. This should be done even if previous submissions have been made to the National Policy Forum.
You should make an individual submission too, and encourage others to do so. Your submission can go into as much or as little detail as you like. We attach our Trident Fact File which may be of help. All submissions must be sent to email@example.com to arrive before 30 April 2016.
Labour must take the lead in getting rid of Trident. We depend on you.
Yours in peace and socialism,
Walter Wolfgang, Chair Labour CND
17th March 2016
IRELAND - Centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising
by Finn Geaney, Dublin Council of Trade Unions, Teachers Union of Ireland and Irish Labour Party
2016 is the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin. This rebellion against the British occupation of the country was a seminal event in Irish history. On 24 April 1916 a few hundred men and women from the Irish Citizen Army and a section of the Irish Volunteers seized control of a number of key buildings in Dublin and held out against British forces for almost a week. Extensive repressive measures followed the military defeat of the Rising. More than 3,500 men and women were arrested immediately after cessation of hostilities, and more than 2,000 of these were transported to prison camps in Britain. The 15 executions that were carried out in Dublin were spread over a period of ten days. This widespread repression contributed significantly to the growth of resistance to British rule in Ireland.
The Uprising in Dublin in Easter 1916 was principally an uprising of the Dublin working class. Of the men and women who were arrested in April and May 1916 in the immediate aftermath of the Rising it is estimated that more than 80% were workers. The Irish Citizen Army was a workers’ army linked to the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. According to Helena Molony, leader of the Irish Women Workers Union, all the women of the Workers’ Co-op were also members of the Citizen Army. The Constitution of the Irish Citizen Army stated that “the ownership of Ireland, moral and material, is vested of right in the people of Ireland”.
The overwhelming majority of the Irish Volunteers were workers, whereas the principal leaders were largely middle class and aloof from labour struggles, some of them hostile to the aspirations of the labour movement. The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a secret, oath-bound body, was behind the setting-up of the Volunteer movement. Yet tradesmen were predominant in the membership of the IRB in Dublin. Many workers with the Dublin Corporation were also members of the IRB.
The leader of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and of the Irish Citizen Army, James Connolly, was a Marxist who had written extensively about the role of the working class in Irish history. He had been campaigning against the general slaughter of workers and socialists across Europe during World War 1, fighting as soldiers in their respective armies. He saw many members of his own union marching away to war. These same workers had gallantly resisted the massed employers in Dublin during the great Lock Out and Strike of 1913, and many were later forced to enlist in the British army as a result of what James Connolly called economic conscription. By striking a military blow for Irish independence, Connolly argued in the Irish Worker, “Ireland may yet set the torch to a European conflagration that will not burn out until the last throne and the last capitalist bond and debenture are shrivelled on the funeral pyre of the last war-lord.”
This was a far different perspective from that of other leaders of the 1916 Uprising. Padraigh Pearse, nominated by the IRB as Head of the ‘Provisional Government’, elevated armed conflict and the struggle for Irish independence from England to a quasi-religious status. He wrote of the beneficial effects for society of the bloodletting of World War 1, referring to the “red wine of the battlefields” across Northern Europe and the “homage of millions of lives given gladly for love of country”. Connolly wrote a blistering attack on that analysis. Padraigh Pearse and Tom Clarke, two of the principal leaders of the IRB, favoured the installation of a German king in Ireland, should Germany be successful in the War. Toward this end they made contact with the German Prince Joachim.
What distinguishes the 1916 period from earlier uprisings against British rule in Ireland is the active intervention of the organised labour movement. The Rising itself came after more than a decade of growing trade union militancy across many areas of the country including Dublin, Belfast, Sligo, Cork and Wexford, and culminating in the massive Strike and Lockout of 1913. Not only had the trade union movement gone through significant growth during that period but the Irish Labour Party was created by the trade unions.
The IRB on the other hand evolved in the 1870s from the Fenian Brotherhood in the United States, with the sole aim of creating by force of arms an independent Irish State free of British rule. By the turn of the century the IRB had significant numbers in Ireland.
The Irish Volunteers emerged in 1914 from a split in the mass movement known as the Volunteers. The latter organisation had been set up to defend the Irish Home Rule Bill that was then going through the Westminster Parliament immediately prior to the beginning of World War 1. In September 1914, a majority of the Volunteers supported a call by John Redmond MP for enlistment by Irishmen on the side of Britain in the War. The minority, less than 10% of the total, became known as the Irish Volunteers. It was a section of this latter force that came together with the Irish Citizen Army in a common struggle at Easter 1916. In the months immediately prior to the Rising Connolly, on hearing of the IRB plans for an insurrection, had discussions with their leaders and agreed to unite with them in the military struggle.
The Irish State that emerged after the events of 1916 and the following years fell far short of that envisaged by James Connolly. Ireland became a conservative, Catholic state with widespread poverty, continuing emigration and denial of women’s rights.
The labour movement lost its most significant leaders. James Connolly was executed, as was Michael Mallin, also a leader of the Irish Citizen Army and one time secretary of the Silk Weavers Union. Richard O’Carroll, a Labour councillor on the Dublin Corporation, was murdered by a British Army Captain. Peadar Macken, a member of the Executive Committee of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, was killed in the fighting, as were many other trade union members. Several trade union and labour leaders were arrested and interned after the Rising. In the years immediately following the events of 1916 the remaining labour leaders gradually withdrew from the struggle for national independence, allowing a political vacuum to develop. As the Irish Party at Westminster became more and more discredited the Sinn Féin Party was enabled to grow, from a mere sect to a mass party. The organised labour movement, at one time to the forefront in the national and class struggles, took a back seat
Sinn Fein took no formal part in the 1916 Uprising. Arthur Griffith founded Sinn Fein in 1905 around a political programme that included a dual monarchy between Britain and Ireland. Griffith opposed the Dublin workers in their 1913 confrontation with the Dublin employers. Until 1917 the official policy of Sinn Fein called for support for ‘King, Lords and Commons’ for Ireland. At the time of the Easter rebellion membership of Sinn Fein scarcely extended beyond one branch in central Dublin. Today’s conservative parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael emerged from splits in Sinn Fein. Partly as a consequence of the failure of the labour leaders after Connolly to remain in the vanguard of the movement for national independence, Sinn Fein was enabled to fill the political vacuum.
The Rising of 1916 was not a mass movement. Only 700 took part in Dublin, where the only serious action occurred. Although labour leaders were deeply involved no strike movement was called in support. Nor was any link forged with the most industrialised part of the country at the time, Belfast. There were also military and tactical failures, such as the absence of clear military aims in the various buildings that were seized in Dublin and a countermanding order against mobilisation from the leader of the Irish Volunteers Eoin MacNeill.
Lenin referred to the events of 1916 Rising as an uprising of “a section of workers”, and commented that the “misfortune of the Irish” was that the “European revolt of the proletariat” had “not yet matured”. Two years later there were mass uprisings by the labour movement across the continent against the major capitalist powers, in Germany, Austria, Britain and other countries; and the Bolsheviks were victorious in Russia in 1917.
The official scenario for 2016 in Ireland will provide an opportunity for conservative forces in the country to propagate a nationalist consensus empty of class content. They will try to eliminate the key role of the labour movement. Men like Padraigh Pearse, a conservative Catholic nationalist, have always been elevated, to the detriment of James Connolly, Michael Mallin and other labour leaders. However a number of trade unions and the Dublin Council of Trade Unions will be organising their own events for 2016 and publishing separate material which emphasises the key positions occupied by socialists of the period, in both the political and military fields.
16th March 2016
Down with Benefit Cuts for the Disabled
By Ian Malcolm-Walker
The LRC condemns the latest cut in benefits for disabled people that the Tories have announced.
As with many such cuts it appears just to be a technical matter.
There is nothing technical in losing £55 a week from your Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and up to £100 a week on top of that in the amount of other benefits that that might trigger.
This cut follows a short consultation that included the Christmas period.
The majority of the majority of responses correctly:
>questioned the robustness of the current assessment process,
>believed that aids and appliances were a good indicator of additional costs, and
>expressed concern about the impact of any “reforms” on claimants and public services.
The assessment scores of 600 000 plus claimants will be cut from 2017.
PIP was introduced solely to reduce the number of claimants by the use of an arbitrary points system akin to the discredited Work Capacity Assessment.
PIP is still not fully in place with many Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants still to migrate. Although many people have already lost money or even lost entitlement altogether, as predicted by Esther McVey, the damage is not severe enough for Iain Duncan-Smith.
Many people with physical impairments are getting the 8 points necessary to get the lower payment for daily living as they use aids or adaptions for a range of activities. To stop these points adding up to eligibility Duncan-Smith is lowering the score in two areas from 2 points to 1.
Many people have settled for 8 points as it triggers money rather than appeal for more points despite evidence that ATOS and Capita are giving people 2 points in various sections when the qualify for more.
Both on PIP and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), these crude points based systems linked to computer based assessments need to be replaced with a proper system developed with disabled people. Labour needs to do that work now, so that a new system is ready to run when it takes power in 2020.
It also needs to demand the Tories come clean on how much disabled people have lost in total since 2010 and on how many resultant deaths there have been.
The first thing that happened after this article was published was the closure of the Conservative Disability Group website: see here
A message was posted on the website: “This website is now permanently closed owing to Disability Cuts and will no longer be developed.”
Then Iain Duncan Smith resigned from the Tory Cabinet over the welfare cuts criticised in Ian Malcolm-Walker’s article. An almighty row has enveloped the Tory Party. We would encourage our Ian to write more on the LRC website to see how many other resignations he can provoke.
10th March 2016
BLACKLIST SUPPORT GROUP STATEMENT
The Blacklist Support Group issued the following statement regrading the current High Court litigation (Thursday 10th March 2016):
Blacklisting is human rights abuse on an industrial scale. The secret conspiracy that ruined the lives of thousands of hard working men and women was orchestrated by the directors of multinational construction firms. Seven years ago they denied everything and refused to pay a penny. The recent press reports that companies have now paid out around £20 million to settle a small number of High Court claims demonstrates the success of the campaign to expose the blacklist.
But justice for blacklisted workers will not be served if the employers are able to buy themselves out of a High Court trial altogether. Those that actively participated in the systematic victimisation of union members over decades need to be held to account. The full force of the law must be brought to bear upon these captains of industry and the companies that profited from their illegal actions.
Blacklisted workers richly deserve compensation but many of us are concerned that the British legal system may allow big business to escape any kind of legal sanction. We have been fighting this scandal for many years: a few thousand pounds cobbled together by lawyers behind closed doors is not good enough. No blacklisted worker should be forced to accept compensation if they want to proceed to the full trial. Justice demands that the guilty parties are exposed to the spotlight of legal scrutiny at the High Court trial in May. Justice demands that the voices of those that suffered be heard. Blacklisted workers will not be silenced.
Even if every blacklisted worker receives compensation, if the companies escape any legal judgement, the blacklisting scandal will remain unfinished business. And we will never give up our struggle.
9th March 2016
Bring back our NHS in England
Letter to Guardian Friday 4th March
NHS services and assets, including blood supplies, nurses, scanning and diagnostic services, ambulances, care homes, hospital beds and buildings – which the British public own – are being handed over to UK and foreign private companies. This is being done without a public mandate. Privatised services cost the NHS and taxpayer far more than when provided by our publicly owned and publicly run NHS. That is because public health systems don’t seek profits. They don’t need to pay dividends to shareholders. They don’t have the added costs of private sector loans. And they don’t have privatisation’s heavy and unnecessary marketising costs of contracts, billings and all the extra administration involved.
The huge commercial costs and chaos caused by the ongoing NHS fragmentation are the direct result of privatisation. This is endangering the quality and safety of our public healthcare. That is why we need the National Health Service bill.
The cross-party NHS bill to bring back the NHS in England as a national universal service and to get rid of the expensive, chaotic internal and external market is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday 11 March. It is supported by thousands of individuals and by Labour, Green, SNP and Lib Dem MPs, including Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. We urge MPs to do everything they can to make sure the bill is debated, and to vote in favour of it so that it proceeds to the next stage.
See the full list of signatures at nhsbill2015.org
Support the NHS Bill
Join the Day of Action on Friday 11th March
2nd March 2016
Economic credibility and radical alternatives
THE JOHN MCDONNELL COLUMN IN LABOUR BRIEFING
SINCE LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE, LABOUR has been an anti-austerity party, rejecting the failed approach to macroeconomics that has done so much damage to this country and across Europe. All of us in the Labour Party should be immensely proud of that. But this is just the very beginning. We need to state clearly what our overall political objective is.
Our aim should be to create a society that is radically fairer, more equal and more democratic and based upon a sustainable prosperity that is shared by all. In developing our economic strategy our task now is to investigate every policy and institution operating in the British economy to assess whether they are fit for purpose in democratising and transforming our economy. I have commissioned a range of reviews by respected figures in their fields into the key institutions of economic decision-making - the Treasury, the Bank of England and HMRC. We need to understand the failed policies of the past and why they still dominate our economic debate. But most of all we need to begin to put forward a radical alternative. That’s why I have assembled our Economic Advisory Council (EAC). It brings together some of the foremost economists in their areas to advise us in their areas of expertise, which range from labour economics to shadow banking to monetary and fiscal policy. The EAC is the backbone of our New Economics series, which was launched last month to raise the level of economic debate and outline radical alternative thinking. Across the UK the members of our EAC, and others, are speaking to packed halls about the important economic issues of our day. It’s important that LRC members participate fully in these events which are all free and advertised on the New Economics website.
It is critically important that the left demonstrates the technical understanding and ability to transform our economy. However demonstrating technical competence is not enough to convince the electorate to trust us with the management of the economy. Osborne has been disastrously technically incompetent in managing the economy. He has missed and failed on every target he has set himself over the last six years - and yet the Tories won the last election because they were more trusted on the economy. The reason is that since 2008 they were allowed to set the economic agenda and to define the economic narrative. In particular they successfully promoted the narrative that the crisis of the banking sector was a crisis of overspending on the public sector. Winning back economic credibility is the most important fight in a generation. Step by step we need to demonstrate that of course we can manage government budgeting effectively. This isn’t about accepting cuts but making sure our income from taxation and economic growth matches our spending. It also means recognising the importance of borrowing for investment, which lays the foundations for future economic prosperity. Investment in our infrastructure pays for itself by expanding economic activity and raising tax revenues. To support our investment programmes we also need a tax system which is fair and fit for the era of globally mobile capital.
At a recent LSE lecture I also gave notice that we will be looking at the fundamental questions facing our economy, for example:
» how assets are owned and shared and how wealth is created and by whom;
» and how we tackle the profound challenges facing our society including climate change, rapid technological advance and an ageing population.
This coming period offers us the potential for the most creative discussion of economic policy since the paradigm shifting discussions, that set the policy programme of the Attlee government after the Second World War and produced the Welfare State. I urge all on the left to participate inthe lecture and seminar series and attend the annual state of the economy conference we are convening on 21 May. In addition I urge supporters to encourage their CLP to organise a local economic seminar or to do so through their local Momentum branch.
Elaine Smith MSP: An Appeal for Support
Comrades will know how tough the forthcoming elections in Scotland will be. It is critical that we support our Scottish comrades in this campaign. One of those comrades is Elaine Smith. Elaine has been the convenor of the Campaign for Socialism and has been courageously at the forefront of every major working class struggle waged in Scotland over decades. She needs people to assist her constituency campaign on the ground and donations to help fund her campaign. I would urge members of the left to assist this excellent socialist all they can. You can send cheques to Samantha Byrne, Constituency Secretary, Coatbridge and Chryston CLP, 38 Orchard Grove, Coatbridge. ML5 3PL.
Labour Briefing is the magazine of the LRC
1st March 2016
Momentum: Activists have their say at last
ORGANIZER OF MOMENTUM THANET, REPORTS ON A STEP FORWARD.
THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF MOMENTUM MET for the first time at the start of February. That part is beyond dispute. Then came the ‘reports’. Scathing ones by papers like theTelegraph were to be expected. But there was also a strangely suspicious report by Labour List reproducing a so-called ‘leak’ (one wonders why they didn’t simply ask Momentum delegates – after all, reports were all over Facebook pretty much as soon as the meeting finished). Barely accurate at best, right wing blogger Guido Fawkes claimed elections to the Steering Committee were a fix. Well, not only was I there, but to my surprise I was elected to the Steering Committee. So Guido, I wish you had said this before, it would have saved me a lot of bother.
Momentum groups have been divided into regions, reflecting the geographical boundaries of the Labour Party. While I was a delegate from the LRC, I’m also an organiser for Momentum Thanet, one of the more established Momentum branches – if that’s what we are – in the South East region. I had been looking forward to the National Committee. After all, how do you democratically ‘start’ a grassroots movement?
It was clear the desire to bring together a ‘broad church’ of the left was behind the National Committee structure with delegates from Momentum groups and from Labour organisations such as the Labour representation Committee, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and Compass as well as from affiliated and unaffiliated unions including the Fire Brigades Union and the Bakers’ Union. Some inside and out of Momentum feared (some, I suspect, even wanted) a quick implosion. In the event, nothing of the sort occurred.
There was plenty of networking – people were keen to meet each other. While it was agreed that delegates had been given too little time to read all the papers, and most had no time to refer papers to those we represented, what was remarkable was the consistent message reflected in the voting – the majority wants Momentum to be as open as possible, focused on the Labour Party, not a simulacrum of it.
Proposals to make Momentum a membership organisation were accepted after clarification that all those now on the database, if they lacked the £5 (unemployed) or £10 annual fee, could remain members. The suggested ban on the sale of left wing journals from other organisations was easily voted down. Some proposals, for example to organise a national Momentum conference and a youth conference, were referred to the Steering Committee with the proviso that a Youth Committee would go ahead. But the most significant votes were those relating to membership and the election of the Steering Committee.
Out of three proposals the best option, in my opinion – allowing membership to anyone not a member of an organisation that stands candidates against Labour – won by a significant majority. Interestingly, as we are delegates to the National Committee, our votes were recorded to allow for accountability. A suggestion: if you want to get to grips with what may be the dynamics of the Steering Committee, check out who voted for what (we were told that the votes would be made public) – from the two votes for allowing only Labour Party members to join or support Momentum, the 18 who wanted to restrict full Momentum membership to Labour Party members but allow non-members to have some participation locally as supporters as long as they didn’t support rival candidates, as well as the 27 who supported the winning proposal. This vote reflects something of the political/ strategic differences between more Labour-centric groupings and those who believe we can only win the Party if we build a mass movement outside to support the struggles inside. No doubt these divisions will be played out in the future in the Steering Committee.
It was unfortunate, considering the significant number of those relatively new to this kind of activists’ politics, that the 30seconds allowed to candidates to pitch for Steering Committee positions gave delegates little (or in one case no) opportunity to ascertain how they intended to contribute as members of the Steering Committee. Union representation is yet to be decided. The Steering Committee so far is: Jon Lansman, Marshajane Thompson, Sam Wheeler, Michael Chessum, Jackie Walker, Jill Mountford, Christine Shawcroft and Cecile Wright.
There was a small but significant pointer on the way Momentum may go. While it was agreed this year wasn’t the time to debate the NEC slate, it was registered that the Centre-Left Grass Roots Alliance slate for the NEC should be a topic for debate for the future.
The atmosphere was pretty buoyant by the end of the meeting. The devil, as ever, will be in the detail.
or Jackie Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is reprinted from the March 2016 issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC
1st March 2016
Editorial in Labour Briefing:
Tory Britain - Our tasks
February 25, 2016
Welcome to Tory Britain:
» where the annual rise in the death rate is the biggest it’s been for half a century;
» where the council house waiting list is at its longest since 1997, yet court evictions in the capital have doubled over five years;
» where the government penalises even the under-sevens by cutting the subsidy for free lunches in small schools;
» where the Housing Bill will drive more people into homelessness, by raising rents, ending secure tenancies and forcing councils to sell off homes;
» where government policy on health and education is driving record numbers out of these professions - not that the Tories care especially, as one of the main goals is the privatisation of these services.
It is now a given that public funding will be dispensed in the most party political manner, comparable to the cronyism of a one-party state. In a blatant bribe, the government is throwing over 80% of an extra £300 million in local authority funding at the wealthy southern Tory-voting shires - not that this will prevent deep cuts in services, as in West Berkshire, now planning to close eight out of nine of its libraries.
On the same basis, the Trade Union Bill will rob the Labour Party of much of its traditional source of funding - contributions from affiliated trade unions. This is the cleanest money in politics compared to the strings-attached corporate donations that the Tory Party depends on.
Up to £10 million a year could be lost to our Party by new proposals to make trade unionists “opt in” to pay the political levy, leaving Labour struggling to compete with the financial firepower of the Tories. Even charities are being targeted by this desperate government: new rules threaten their status if they are critical of the government, which is also leaning on councils not to allow boycotts of oppressive regimes.
None of these problems accumulating in Tory Britain are addressed by the debate over EU membership, particularly on the anti-immigrant, anti-welfare basis that the government has shamefully framed it. This narrow focus underlines that Cameron’s limited renegotiation and the upcoming referendum are primarily aimed at resolving differences in the Conservative Party and heading off the now collapsing support for UKIP, the party that so rattled the Tories a couple of years ago. For many ordinary people, this exercise looks increasingly like an orchestrated distraction from the government’s hasty asset-stripping of every aspect of the public sector.
For Cameron, this is a risky strategy which could make his own position imminently precarious - just as that of his opposite number feels increasingly secure. In a recent Times piece entitled “Why Corbyn may last longer than Cameron”, one commentator quoted an insider’s observation about Labour’s leader that centre-left papers are still unwilling to concede: “Everywhere he goes he gets the most amazing reaction. He gets mobbed. People wait outside halls and want selfies and autographs. And new members are still joining up at a thousand a week. That’s unprecedented.”
Heartening stuff. But, as we know, the enthusiasm with which Jeremy Corbyn is greeted across the labour movement and beyond stands in sharp contrast to the grudging toleration he gets from many of his parliamentary colleagues. Without a programme or a candidate, in the short term most of these see little prospect of reversing Corbyn’s historic win last year. But that does not stop some plotting against him, being obstructive or simply trying to mobilise acolytes in the Party to isolate him from his huge support base.
For Corbyn supporters, now grouping together in Momentum, there is a twofold job to do. Firstly, the right wing’s attempt to isolate the leader must be beaten off in all sections of the Party. Itis vital that Jeremy Corbyn has a supportive NEC and the backing of all levels of the party organisation - at constituency and regional level and amongaffiliates. The left’sconvincing gains in the elections to Young Labour’s National Committee is an excellent start.
Last year’s great win must be translated into a transformation of the Party across the board, to turn it outwards into a campaigning, election-winning organisation.
And this complements the other key task facing us: building a much broader movement that can take the Corbyn agenda out into the country at large, to build on the support among activists and turn it into a majority that can kick the Tories out of power and bring in a radical Labour government, perhaps the first in generations.
Labour Briefing is the magazine of the LRC.
14th February 2016
LRC Special General Meeting Amendments 2016
13th February 2016
LRC Special General Meeting 2016
– After Corbyn’s Victory
11th February 2016
Call Time on Failed NHS Privatisation
Letter to Guardian Monday 8th February
NHS privatisation in England has increased dramatically since the Health and Social Care Act was passed in 2012. The most recent official figures show that in 2013-14 the NHS paid £6.6bn to private healthcare firms – the equivalent of £18m a day. But despite this huge outlay, there is still no evidence that the private sector is any better, more efficient or cost effective.
Indeed, there have been some spectacular contract failures – Circle at Hinchingbrooke hospital, Serco with Suffolk’s community services, and Arriva and the North West Ambulance Service to name but a few.
We also have the disturbing situation where many of the 200-plus bodies in England that plan, source and oversee healthcare in their local areas are seeking advice from the very organisations that stand to profit hugely from outsourcing. It’s hardly surprising that these clinical commissioning groups are increasingly awarding contracts outside the NHS.
Some of these companies are the offshoots of US multinationals, and there is a real danger that if we continue down this road we could end up with a repeat of the American experience where income, rather than need, dictates the level of care that a patient can expect.
Resources are scarce and this surge in privatisation is a huge waste of public money. The billions spent creating the internal market, in which private firms are thriving, could have gone on patient care.
And every time a contract collapses, it’s taxpayers who have to step in and pick up the tab. As the representatives of more than a million NHS employees, we urge the government to call time on its failed privatisation experiment.
Dave Prentis General secretary, Unison
Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite
Tim Roache General secretary elect, GMB
Professor Cathy Warwick Chief executive, Royal College of Midwives
Warren Town Director of industrial strategy, Society of Radiographers
Professor Karen Middleton Chief executive, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
Andy Burman General secretary, the British Dietetic Association
Rowena McNamara Chair, British Orthoptic Trade Union
Eddie Saville General secretary, Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association
9th February 2016
Momentum Goes Forward
Short report of their first National Committee meeting on Saturday 6th February
The National Committee decided that Momentum should become a membership organisation. Members of other political parties will not be eligible for membership of Momentum.
Membership will be open to Labour members, affiliated supporters, and supporters of the aims and values of the Labour Party, who are not members of other political parties (except the Co-Operative Party, which has an electoral agreement with Labour).
The meeting elected a Steering Committee of eight people, including our Jackie Walker, a member of the LRC EC. In addition there will be four representatives from trade unions, one from Scotland and one from Wales.
Further details to follow
7th February 2016
Let’s seize the opportunity!
Labour Briefing Editorial February 2016
DESPITE NO SIGNS OF A LET-UP IN THE RELENTLESSLY HOSTILE MEDIA BARRAGE, there are several huge positives that can be taken from the fIrst months of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Firstly, the convincing win in the Oldham by-election underlined solid support for Labour, notwithstanding press predictions of a meltdown.
Secondly, Jeremy’s New Year reshuffle, particularly the appointment of Emily Thornberry as Shadow Defence spokesperson, actually strengthens his position in the Shadow Cabinet ahead of the Trident policy review. Her stance on this is far closer to Corbyn’s than that of the displaced Maria Eagle. While the media made much of the protracted dramas of the reshuffle process, blame for this lies entirely with those (like the soon forgotten Stephen Doughty), who seized the opportunity to inflict maximum damage not just on the leadership, but on the Party itself.
Junior shadow ministerial resignations may grab a headline, but ultimately they are a sign of impotence. Alastair Campbell showed more foresight than many of his Blairite friends when he conceded recently that Corbyn’s position was ‘unassailable’. He understands that without a clear alternative set of policies, popular narrative or even a candidate, his co-thinkers in the Parliamentary Labour Party have little to offer beyond petulant gestures and intrigues against the leadership.
There will be a big debate in the Party on Trident and the size of Corbyn’s popular mandate puts him in a strong position. What’s undeniable is that his refusal to compromise on this essential pillar of his leadership campaign has already broken the elite consensus on this issue, generating a public conversation for the first time in many years on the merits of Britain’s nuclear ‘deterrent’.
Corbyn’s biggest achievement has been to transform Labour into a firmly anti-austerity Party, challenging, unlike his predecessors, every Tory cut and betrayal. The clarity of this narrative, so absent in the 2015 General Election campaign, together with a leader who has never compromised his principles, will resonate increasingly withvoters.
And increasingly, Corbyn’s opponents in the Party are having to accept – for now, at least – that there isn’t going to be a fresh leadership challenge. Hence a strategy by some to embrace Corbyn from the centre, to pull him towards their political outlook, to neutralise him. Rather than challenge the leader directly, they attack his supporters - his staff, those who defend him in the media and above all, Momentum, the grassroots movement so necessary if the issues raised in the leadership campaign are to become party policy.
But the building of this movement is not primarily about changing Labour’s internal culture, important though this undoubtedly is. It’s about winning back voters - as Momentum’s organisation of several buses of activists to campaign in the Oldham by-election demonstrates. For all its public school bravado, this Tory government, with its lack of long-term strategy, its mean-minded cuts and its unpopular attacks on public healthcare and housing, is reminiscent of John Major’s government a generation ago. Just as it presided over the final destruction of deep coalmining, so Cameron’s crew is allowing the steel industry to be smashed up. Like Major’s, this government increasingly has the feel of a one-term administration, focusing more and more on its own internal divisions, with a polarised debate on the EU and a messy leadership contest beckoning.
But it could be around for a few years yet to wreak its damage. However isolated Jeremy Corbyn may be in Parliament, we have a real opportunity to make a difference, building on the huge influx of new members into the Party and the many tens of thousands still outside keen to advance the Corbyn agenda. Now is the time to build a mass movement that can not only support his endeavours at Westminster, but above all drive the Tories from power and put Team Corbyn into Number Ten.
7th February 2016
Centre-left candidates for the 2016 Labour Party NEC, NCC and Treasurer elections
Centre left candidates for the 2016 Labour Party NEC, NCC and Treasurer elections are:
National Executive Committee (NEC) - Ann Black; Ken Livingstone; Christine Shawcroft; Claudia Webbe; Darren Williams; Peter Willsman
National Constitutional Committee (NCC) - Chris Williamson
Treasurer - Diana Holland
Download pdf leaflet from: http://www.clpd.org.uk/
7th February 2016
LIFT THE BAN ON THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF UKRAINE! BUT OPPOSE NEO-STALINISM!
STATEMENT OF THE UKRAINE SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN
The Ukraine Solidarity Campaign condemns the decision of the District Administrative Court of Kyiv on 16th December 2015 to suspend the activities of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU). This judgement in effect prevents the CPU from participating in elections and engaging in other activities under its own name. On 25th January 2016, the Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine upheld the judgement, which is now being challenged at the European Court of Human Rights.
The District court judgement considered that the CPU had failed to conform with the controversial law “On the condemnation of Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes in Ukraine and prohibition of promoting their symbols”. An earlier judgement on 23rd July 2015 de-registered the CPU, which prevented it from standing in local elections under its name. The CPU then stood under the name of ‘New State’ in the elections.
We oppose the ban on the CPU not out of support for its reactionary, nationalist politics but in the interests of freedom and democracy in Ukraine itself. We share the concerns of human rights organisations that have strongly criticised both the judgement and the law upon which it was based.
Amnesty International has condemned it as a betrayal of the aspirations of the EuroMaidan rebellion, John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe stating: “Expressing your opinion without fear of prosecution, particularly if that opinion is contrary to the views held by those in position of power, was one of the principles behind the EuroMaidan protests. Snuffing out the Communist party flies in the face of these ideals.” Whilst Volodymyr Yavorsky, of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union condemned it as contravening the European Convention on Human Rights. Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group also condemned the court in backing the Justice Ministry, noting: “It may well be that the SBU [Security Service] can prove that there is a need in democratic Ukraine to ban the Communist Party on the grounds of danger to national security. Neither it nor the Justice Ministry have thus far done so.” The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission has slammed the law on propaganda of communist and Nazi regimes for failings which could infringe people’s right to freedom of expression and of association. Despite meeting the Ukrainian authorities, to date there has been are no changes in the ‘de-communisation’ laws or their application.
Myth and Reality
Whilst opposing the ban on the CPU, the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign disassociates itself from a campaign in the UK which aligns itself directly with the reactionary politics of the CPU. This does not help the Ukrainian labour movement, democratic socialists or human rights in Ukraine.
It is a fact that first restrictions on the CPU took place in the area controlled by the Russian client Donetsk Peoples Republic. Despite its loyalty to the regime, it excluded the local CPU, rebranded as ‘Communist Party of the Donetsk Peoples Republic’, from taking part in elections in October 2014 and again in October 2015. It is revealing that the neo-Stalinist parties in the UK have been silent about this ban by authorities that they defend.
That there has been no popular upsurge in defence of the CPU is something that cannot be explained simply by the presence of far-right organisations or embellished accounts of repression. It is true that war in parts of the East and annexation of Crimea, has damaged its main base of support. However it is a fact that for a great many Ukrainians, including trade unionists and socialists, the CPU is utterly discredited. Support for the CPU was plummeting long before the war. In the last Parliamentary elections before the EuroMaidan the CPU won no MPs in single member districts, dropping to 13.2% of the proportional vote, whilst CPU leader Petro Symonenko dropped to 3.5% in the 2010 Presidential election. This reality reinforces our view that it is for the Ukrainian people to judge the record of the CPU not the courts
Read the full statement here: http://ukrainesolidaritycampaign.org/2016/02/07/18731/
3rd February 2016
More Banking Mayhem on the Way?
By Mick Brooks.
Reprinted from the February 2016 issue of Labour Briefing,
magazine of the LRC
Martin Wheatley, head of the Financial Conduct Authority, was summarily dismissed from his post in July. His crime? He was trying to do his job of effectively regulating the banks. George Osborne and the Treasury are facing a deluge of lobbying from the financial sector, and they have caved in completely.
Financial mismanagement matters. According to Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, the costs of the crisis triggered by the banks could add up to £7.4trn in lost output. Currently we collectively produce about £1.75trn in a year, so the banks have cost us more than four years production – lost forever.
Also the FCA has now abandoned a proposed review of the banking sector’s catastrophic culture. The banks have got away with it. The ‘Financial Times’ has confirmed that a bigwig from the Bank of England presided over the retreat from the inquiry.
Osborne says it’s time to abandon banker bashing. What banker bashing? Iceland, with a population of a little over 300,000, has banged up 26 bankers for malfeasance during the 2007-8 Great Recession. In the UK just a few small fry involved in the London Interbank Offered Rate fiddle have recently been sent to prison. There is no doubt that fixing LIBOR and foreign exchange rate rigging were criminal frauds, but the authorities seem unable or unwilling to act against the people most responsible.
New rules have been drafted so that senior bankers would have to account for their failings in the event of another banking crash. Now the burden of proof has been reversed, so the authorities will have to positively prove bankers’ fault. So far the banking magnates have successfully concealed their criminal irresponsibility for the crisis amid the thickets of financial complexity. Their excuse seems to be that they were too stupid to understand what was going on!
The Green Report prepared by City regulators nails the directors and the board at HBOS for the near-collapse of the bank in 2008 and declares that, “the people most culpable were let off.” HSBC has recently been reported as helping rich clients evade tax – which is a criminal offence. No action has followed in either case so far.
The ‘elephant deal’ negotiated by Barclays shows how the banks support criminality instead of lending their money to build up British industry and British jobs. The bank did not run checks on ‘politically exposed persons’ (in other words crooks) who wanted to transfer £1.88bn in a hurry. The crooks insisted on strict anonymity from the bank. Barclays at once agreed.
Where had the money come from? “Landholdings, real estate and business and commercial activities,” replied the clients. The FCA noted that this meaningless waffle, “failed to minimise the risk that it may be used to facilitate financial crime.” We still don’t know who these guys are. Barclays has maintained its omerta. The FCA eventually fined Barclays £72m. But that’s peanuts!
Fines imposed by the FCA on the banks overall fell by 40% in 2015. And the seven City banks got away with paying just £21m corporation tax in 2014 on revenues of £12bn and UK profits of £3,6bn.
Britain is particularly vulnerable to a crisis of capitalism affecting the banking sector. The assets controlled by finance capital are bloated up to four time our GDP. Before the crisis the banks were ratcheting up the risks to the rest of us in search of rewards for themselves. In 2007-8 they were lending out 50 times as much as they held in assets. That meant that only 2% of their loans had to go bad before they were in deep water.
It was belatedly recognised that the banks were gambling with our livelihoods and with other people’s money. A more prudential approach was adopted after the crash, and has been progressively abandoned under the Tories. Finance capital is lobbying hard at measures in the Banking Reform Act, passed by Parliament in 2013. At present the capital requirement of the banks stands at 33-1, so only 3% of loans need fail before we’re on the boom-slump helter skelter again.
Osborne’s counter-reforms and the restoration of the ‘light touch’ regulation are building up the instability in the financial sector that contributed to the onset of the Great Recession. It could all happen again. Vince Cable, former Business Secretary now out of office, claims the establishment is turning “a blind eye to abuses in the banking system.”
Why is Osborne doing it? Some may suggest it is because the Tories are dependent on funds from high finance. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that half of the Conservative Party’s donations came from sinister bodies such as hedge funds. £19m flowed into their coffers from wealthy fund managers before the last general election. This seems to have been money well spent. In this view the Tories are institutionally corrupt.
You may very well think that. I could not possibly comment.
25th January 2016
Blacklist Support Group latest
High Court orders blacklist firms to disclose further evidence
and issues costs of £100,000 against them
On Friday 22 Jan, the High Court made judgments against blacklisting firms; Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci PLC ordering them to disclose further evidence from back up computer tapes of emails that despite previous court orders, they had failed to provide.
The two day hearing before Lord Justice Supperstone and Master Leslie heard revelation after revelation about the extent of destruction of documents by the firms relating to their involvement with the Consulting Association blacklisting body. The final decision of the hearing resulted in costs being awarded against the companies to cover the full two day hearing, estimated to be in excess of £100,000.
Dinah Rose QC, representing the 600 blacklisted workers in the litigation, told the court that household names such as “Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Balfour Beatty and Carillion had destroyed the lives of thousands of working men and women” and that their continued conduct was designed to “cover their tracks”.
The role of Cullum McAlpine, director of Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd (SRM) and founding Chairman of the Consulting Association blacklisting body came in for particular criticism. Despite a court order requiring full disclosure, not a single email or document to or from Cullum McAlpine, his personal assistant or from David Cochrane final chairman of TCA have been disclosed. The court was even told how in 2011 all hard copies of correspondence between Cullum McAlpine and the Consulting Association had been destroyed. Dinah Rose QC told the court that “Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd has been evasive with conduct intended to conceal the central role of Cullum McAlpine. Cullum McAlpine is a very important man. For the sake of retaining trust in the British legal system, he must not allowed to get away with a cover up.”
The court was also shown evidence that David Cochrane (SRM) chairman of the Consulting Association at the time of its discovery had contacted the blacklisting organisation’s chief executive Ian Kerr instructing him to “ring everyone - destroy all the data”. It was revealed that Cochrane had told Kerr to keep Cullum McAlpine’s name out of the press and large sums of money were transferred to the bank account of Ian Kerr’s daughters in the summer of 2009.
Balfour Beatty was also highlighted when it was revealed that, despite instructions to the contrary, the PC and laptop of Elaine Gallagher, main contact for the company with TCA had both been wiped in April 2013. Trevor Watcham from Balfour Beatty was chairman of the Consulting Association from 2004-5 but his entire email history was deleted in 2011 and not a single document from him has been disclosed. It was also disclosed to the court that an internal Balfour Beatty database containing the names of construction workers who had been involved in union activities had been discovered on the laptop of Gerry Harvey, director of Human Resources, still employed by the company at their Glasgow head office. The comments “not required” and “do not re-employ” appeared next to the names of the union members and the document was found after the discovery of the Consulting Association blacklist was exposed in March 2009.
Lord Justice Supperstone commented “If the firms were professional enough to cover up their actions, did they also cover up more internal databases?”
Edmund Nourse QC representing the McFarlanes defendants said that “no impropriety whatsoever” could be implied over the destruction of the documents, which were merely “unfortunate mistakes”.
Dinah Rose described the McFarlanes position on non disclosure and destruction of evidence as “bonkers” and described an expert witness statement provided by the firms as “disgraceful and intended to mislead”.
Dave Smith from the Blacklist Support Group commented afterwards:
“All of the platitudes and half apologies, all their crocodile tears and claims of rogue managers from the companies over the past six or seven years are clearly nonsense. Documents have been destroyed and Directors of multinational companies are hiding stuff on their laptops. It calls into question all of the promises made to Parliament and the High Court. I am not a lawyer but I would have thought that destroying evidence that would almost certainly have been used in a court case might be considered perverting the course of justice.
The lawyers seemed particularly keen to keep any evidence about Cullum McAlpine being disclosed - this wretch set up and was the funding chairman of the Consulting association. He was intimately involved in its operation over many years. What could he possibly have to hide?”
14th January 2016
Special general meeting:
LRC National Committee Statement
1. The election of Jeremy Corbyn constitutes a political earthquake in Britain. For many years first right wing New Labour, and now a Tory government, which aspires to destroy the welfare state and most of the gains achieved by the labour movement over a century, have dominated the political agenda. Over this time the LRC and the left generally have been in a defensive mode. Jeremy’s election on a huge wave of democratic involvement and debate represents the beginning of a long-awaited radicalisation in British society. As Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union has commented, this represents, “The chance of a lifetime.” We must seize this opportunity to make permanent gains for the cause of socialism.
2. On the left there has been a historic division between those like the LRC who argued that the radicalisation of the working class was likely to be reflected within the Labour Party, the traditional political organisation of the working class, and others who asserted that an alternative to Labour must inevitably be built from outside. The LRC laid down in our statements at Conference after Conference that the radicalisation of working people will at some point attempt to create a mass left wing within Labour. Hence our long-term strategic orientation to the Labour Party. So we feel Jeremy’s election as leader is a vindication of our perspective. But we are of course only at an early stage of what may well prove to be dramatic political developments.
3. Jeremy Corbyn’s election has opened the way for a fight to change the nature of British politics fundamentally. Under all recent governments, neo-liberalism has ruled, unquestioned in the `mainstream’ of all major parties. But to carry forward the earthquake of Corbyn’s election into lasting change will require a momentous struggle both within the labour movement’s structures and a step-change in the industrial and social struggles outside. The fate of both is intrinsically linked, and the LRC needs to be encouraging, and a part of, both.
4. The continuous barrage of hostility faced by Corbyn (and McDonnell and some of their staffers) from the media and some in the PLP is an indication of the urgent need to change the Party. That some in the PLP have shown that they may even be willing to sacrifice their own careers in the drive to bring down Corbyn is one of many indications of the scale of the task. If the internal battle in the Labour Party is not resolved in the left’s favour, then it is unlikely that the struggle outside could be sustained. A defeat for Jeremy in the Party would be a defeat for the left across the board.
5. While participating in, and encouraging, industrial and social struggles, at the present time the LRC has to emphasise the internal battles in the movement. The Labour Party has undergone a huge increase in membership and many of these have joined specifically to support the Corbyn leadership in the battles ahead. We must encourage these new members and supporters to get involved in the structures of the Party at every level, and provide the information and logistical support to enable them to do so. For Corbyn’s election to have a lasting effect, transparent democratic structures need to be reintroduced into the party, such as the restoration of Party conference as the policy-making body, together with accountability of elected representatives at every level. Every effort to do so will get a hostile reaction, but backing off will only give heart to the right.
6. We need to be part of a campaign to win full membership rights for those disbarred or expelled during the campaign for the leadership and since, many of whom have been left in limbo – or worse - since. Without that the party machine will hold the upper hand in arbitrarily deciding who is a member.
7. The support of many unions for Corbyn in his election campaign was welcome and will have significantly contributed to his victory, but we need to be alert to the fact that some General Secretaries only gave their support under pressure and some have been working behind the scenes since his election for a watering down of his stance on several issues. Just as in the Labour Party, we need to work at every level in the unions to encourage participation, democracy and transparency, with policies which can defend workers against the on-going attacks of employers and government. We have to encourage union members and branches to join/affiliate to the Party and not simply leave support to national executives. We welcome the FBU decision to affiliate, and we have to press for other nonaffiliated unions to also affiliate. Within the unions we need to argue for anti-austerity policies and for them to be given teeth through action. We need to insist that opposition to the Trade Union Bill and its draconian attempts to shackle workers, if it becomes law, is taken seriously and leaders are held to their verbal commitment to defy it.
8. For the LRC, the new situation poses new challenges and opportunities for activity. But it also requires a significant modification of our organisational forms if we are to take full advantage of these opportunities. If a mass movement of the left is in formation at present, then it is vital that the LRC is part of that movement. We have no organisational fetish. If the LRC is to be subsumed into a much larger movement that can strive to change society, then we have to be part of it, and would be glad to be so.
9. As agreed at the October NC, we support and will participate in the development of a united movement of the Labour left and beyond. This new movement seems to be crystallising around the banner of Momentum. Momentum is a somewhat amorphous network at present. This is not a criticism. It is an inevitable stage in the creation of a new movement. Momentum has enormous potential. We intend to be part of that movement and to work as hard as we can to make it a big success.
10. We want it to be democratic, with the membership determining its policies and electing its officers. We will build Momentum locally and take part in its national structures, as they are established, as a mass movement of the Labour left and beyond, uniting all those inside the Party and outside who wish to advance the Corbyn agenda and get a Corbyn-led government elected. However, we do not believe that those organisations which stand candidates against Labour should be in Momentum and we will push for this to become Momentum’s national policy. It is not necessary for those standing against Labour to be inside Momentum for Momentum supporters to work with them in campaigns against austerity, war, racism etc.
11. One of the areas where the Tories are increasing their attacks is on local government, with the announcement of a further 50% cut in funding over the next few years. Over the years there has been little resistance to cuts in local government either from the national Labour Party or at a local level by Labour Councils, and often not by the unions whose members are affected by job losses, wage freezes and privatisation. We have to argue for such a campaign to include unions, service users as well as labour Parties and Councillors. At the same time, we continue to argue that real resistance means Labour Councils should refuse to carry through cuts, and will use the selection process to argue for representatives prepared to carry that out.
12. There is no contradiction between the LRC participating fully in the creation of a national network of local and internet-based Momentum groups and maintaining the existence of our own organisation – for the time being. But we must be alive to the prospects opening up before us. We are not sectarians. If the LRC has outlived its usefulness, we will be delighted to participate instead in a mass left wing movement aimed at transforming the Labour Party. Momentum has the possibility to become that movement, but that development is not inevitable. It is still finding its feet. There is at present no democratic structure to their organisation nationally. Some believe that is not necessary – that Momentum can maintain its existence as a network indefinitely. We believe it must develop a democratic structure. Secondly there is the question of the trade unions. Historically the unions gave birth to the Labour Party, and they remain its rock and foundation. Momentum must find a way to involve the trade union movement in its decisions and activities.
13. Momentum may still be in gestation and its practical forms of organisation under discussion. But what is no longer up for debate is the centrality of the Labour Party in the struggle to advance our socialist agenda. As other organisations are realising and the huge surge in Labour membership attests, the Labour Party is the key political place for socialist activists to be right now. And even if sections of the Labour right wing succeed in ousting Jeremy Corbyn as leader as some are currently plotting, it is absolutely impossible in these new conditions that the left will go back to being a marginal force in the Party.
14. Does that mean that Momentum should be purely oriented towards Labour? That would narrow the movement that came behind his campaign unnecessarily. Tens of thousands of people, particularly those involved in local campaigns and social movements, identified immediately with the Corbyn campaign but are not prepared at this stage to become actively involved in the Party. They are an important buttress of support. It would be a bad mistake to disregard these campaigners or impose conditions on their support. They must be involved in support of Corbyn and his objectives by all means possible. But we must also help turn their attention towards the battles that will take place within the Labour Party.
15. This poses a new challenge for the LRC whose original objective, still valid, was to find a more democratic and participatory way of organising the left that was not tainted by bureaucratic and secretive practices. The challenge now is to recognise that the new situation in the Party allows us to move beyond the refinement of LRC policy at its AGMs to working with others, including affiliated unions, to advance the Corbyn agenda in the Party as a whole: making policy at the annual conference of the Party and securing new trade union and other affiliates to the real Labour Party.
16. The LRC therefore needs to change. It needs to transition into a new structure and potentially a new name, to be launched at an event in 2016. Its focus must be to organise a radical, democratic left within the Party and the unions to promote socialist policies and candidates and a democratisation of the party’s structures. As once-affiliated unions that left in the New Labour years consider rejoining the Party, we will look to secure the active political commitment of these organisations.
17. Part of this process of reconstruction is the development of closer coordination with Red Labour, CLPD and other forces on the Labour left working in the same field for shared goals. Our long term aim must be a unified movement of the Labour left championing common goals, campaigns and slates. 18. Accordingly the constitution of the LRC will need to be significantly modified at the 2016 meeting, reshaping our organisation to the new tasks ahead. If – and only if - we do this, our organisation will be well placed to interact with and influence the thousands of potential supporters now joining the Party.
In addition to this statement affiliated organisations have already received proposed constitutional amendments from the LRC NC.
They have the right in turn to move amendments to the statement and the proposed constitutional amendments.
The deadline is February 6th
After that date all the proposed amendments will be published on this website for all members to peruse.
12th January 2016
LRC Special conference 2016:
Saturday 20th February 2016
The left’s success in 2015 was truly extraordinary - Jeremy Corbyn was swept into the Labour leadership, with a massive democratic mandate from Party members and supporters. But although we have won the leadership, we haven’t yet won control of the Party. Hostile elements still abound, in the parliamentary party, the organisational apparatus, and beyond. There can be no place for routinism - the left must raise its game to meet the new tasks we now face.
In these exceptional circumstances, therefore, the LRC’s National Committee has decided to call this Special General Meeting in order to have a focused, structured discussion about how we respond - politically and organisationally - to the new situation. For these purposes the agenda will be based around discussion of a National Committee Statement, and recommendations for structural changes to how the LRC sees its role and operates going forward.
We invite you to the LRC Special Meeting 2016 taking place on
Saturday 20th February at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL, from 10:30 am to ~ 4pm.
Registration opens 10 am.
Speakers to date are: John McDonnell MP, Liz Davies; Ian Hodson, BFAWU; Dave Green (tbc), FBU ; Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper
All national, regional and local affiliates and local groups are entitled to move one resolution to the LRC statement and one to the constitutional changes at this SGM. The maximum wording for an amendment is 250 words, for constitutional amendments100 words.
The final date for the receipt of amendments is February 6th. Affiliates and local groups are encouraged to propose amendments to the statement since it will be the basis of our debate about future strategy. We will advise where duplicate or similar motions are composited.
In order to fully participate at this Conference, you must be a current, paid-up LRC member or Affiliate. So, if your LRC membership and/or affiliation has lapsed, please renew your membership of the LRC now,
Further details of confirmed speakers, timetable, amendments and other conference information will appear on the LRC website over the coming weeks.
(Our constitution may be found at: l-r-c.org.uk/files/Constitution_2013-2014.pdf)
We hope to see you at the LRC Special Conference on 20th February 2016.
29th December 2015
The Floods and the Cuts
By Mick Brooks
Apart from the heartbreak, the present floods have caused a cool £5 billion in damage so far, and the clean-up may end up costing a lot more.
Politicians smugly declare after the waters have risen, “This is a once in a lifetime event.” Well there are places in Britain that have endured floods in 2007, the winter of 2013-4, and again now in December 2015.
The reason for the long term change in climate conditions is global warming, which is in part caused by human activity such as emitting carbon into the atmosphere. We have been warned that this climate change is likely to produce extreme weather events - in Britain most likely in the form of floods.
Every time there is flooding the powers that be assure us that they have learned the lessons. And it seems they never do. Yet the Pitt Review after the 2007 inundation established that we needed a systematic strengthening of our flood defences.
So what was one of the first things the Tory dominated coalition did on taking office in 2010? They cut the flood defence budget by 27% as part of the cuts. By the time of the summer floods of 2012 300 projects, such as plans for the defence of Kendal and Leeds, were in tatters. Now we see the consequences.
The Department of the Environment under Owen Paterson in 2013 also cut its staff working on the problem of how to cope with climate change problems from 38 to 6. How on earth was a climate change denier put in charge in the first place?
It is true that the 2012 floods provoked a panic-stricken surge of £270m in emergency funding from the government. Cameron uses figure this to try to show that the Tories have not let people’s homes and livelihoods go to ruin in the relentless drive to austerity. But the steady, regular spending on the upkeep and improvement of the flood defences is what really matters. That has been ruthlessly driven down as part of the cuts. For the Tories prevention of flooding is much less important than cutting corporation tax for big business and the top rate of income tax for the rich.
The National Audit Office reported in November 2014 that £1 spent on defences will save £10 on flood damage. The Tory cuts are literally penny wise, pound foolish. And the NAO added in their report, “Ad hoc emergency spending is less good value then sustained maintenance.” Of course – prevention is better than cure.
That is precisely what John McDonnell is arguing for. The case for planning our flood defences for the long term, not just reacting when it’s too late, is urgent and unanswerable.
As Innes Thomson, former flood chief at the Environment Agency put it:
“If we were to spend more just maintaining and managing water levels, it would be money well spent…If we spent a slug of money now cleaning up rivers, it would help… I think we are talking about tens of millions of pounds. Now is an opportunity to reconsider where we spend our money.”
The cuts have had other devastating consequences for the work of flood relief. As ever, the firefighters have played a sterling role in rescuing people and their possessions, and taking them to a place of safety. As Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, has pointed out the continuing closure of fire stations has made the rescue work so much more difficult.
The floods are not just a natural disaster. In part they are a consequence of Tory policies.
By the way, a Happy New Year to all our supporters – and keep fighting to kick the Tories out!
26th December 2015
Momentum Statement December 2015
While Momentum has successfully achieved its initial short term goal of capturing the energy and enthusiasm of Jeremy’s campaign, there is still work to be
done to ensure that it meets its longer term aim of developing into a democratic, transparent and participatory organisation.
When Momentum was launched, the website stated, “As it grows, Momentum will develop democratic governance structures at every level of the network.” This will be the top priority for early 2016. We will continue to establish regional coordinating networks, made up of two representatives from local groups, at least one of whom must be a woman. In order to move towards a democratic governance structure at a national level, a National Committee will meet in January 2016. Its initial composition is to be decided by the Launch Reference Group (Clive Lewis MP, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Richard Burgon MP, Kate Osamor MP, Jon Lansman and Cllr. Sam Tarry), and full details will be published on the website.
In order to reflect the diversity of the movement and its grassroots nature, the National Committee will be made up of two representatives from Scotland, Wales and each of the nine English regions, two from each national trade union and representatives of established Labour left organisations. The committee will be gender balanced and will include BAME and disability representation. Initial representation from regions and nations and equalities groups will be based on consultation as prescribed by the reference group, but will be elected within six months.
The National Committee will perform the following functions:
• Engage with supporters to listen to what groups need to be able to organise effectively at a local level.
• In consultation with local groups and supporters, create a democratic, representative structure which facilitates local, regional and national coordination.
• Ensure that Momentum has the capacity to hold free and fair elections for positions on the National Committee.
• Clarify a membership and affiliation structure, and encourage trade union participation at local and regional as well as national level.
• Secure a viable pathway for Momentum to become a financially sustainable organisation.
• Ensure all the necessary organisational processes and procedures are in place (for instance, verification for local groups and complaints procedures).
Full details of the National Committee will be published on the website. Momentum supporters will receive regular updates on the process, and every effort will be made to engage grassroots supporters in the decision-making processes. We are confident that this process will ensure that Momentum will become a sustainable organisation which will continue to facilitate a grassroots movement for real progressive change in our communities.
As Jeremy outlines in his endorsement of Momentum, 2015 has been a remarkable year. But this is just the beginning. Thank you for your continued support and for being part of Momentum.
21st December 2015
After Corbyn’s Victory:
The tasks facing the Labour Left and LRC
Special General Meeting 2016
The left’s success in 2015 was truly extraordinary - Jeremy Corbyn was swept into the Labour leadership, with a massive democratic mandate from Party members and supporters. But although we have won the leadership, we haven’t yet won control of the Party. Hostile elements still abound, in the parliamentary Party, the organisational apparatus, and beyond. There can be no place for routinism - the left must raise its game to meet the new tasks we now face.
In these exceptional circumstances, therefore, the LRC’s National Committee has decided to invoke the clause in our constitution (32) to call a Special General Meeting in order to have a focused, structured discussion about how we respond - politically and organisationally - to the new situation. For these purposes the agenda will be based around discussion of a National Committee statement and recommendations for structural changes to how the LRC sees its role and operates going forward.
National affiliates are entitled to submit and move amendments to the NC Statement. The Conference Arrangements Committee reserves the right to rule on whether the subject of the amendments falls within the remit of the Special General Meeting, or whether they should be referred to the subsequent AGM (to be held later in 2016). Please note that, given the circumstances, the LRC will be under media scrutiny as never before. Amendments thought likely to bring the LRC into disrepute will not be considered to be in order.
The SGM will also consider proposed constitutional changes, including to the structure of elected officerships and committees - with elections therefore deferred until the 2016 AGM. Further details to come as soon as possible
Special General Meeting
Conway Hall, London
February 20th 2016
Register from 10 am.
Meeting ends at 5 pm
21st December 2015
Bring a New Politics into Local Democracy
LRC EC Statement
On the basis of a hasty and highly selective reading of the letter sent to Labour councils by Jeremy Corbyn, together with John McDonnell and Jon Trickett, some right-wingers are claiming that the leadership has endorsed their existing strategy towards implementing the cuts. Likewise some sectarian elements on the left have already begun to accuse the leadership of having made a demoralising climb-down on the issue.
In fact, it is a mistake to see this letter as closing down the debate. Instead, it represents an implicit critique of the failure of the previous leadership – under then Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Hilary Benn – for failing to ensure that Labour councils across the country engaged “community campaigners, council staff who are under duress as a result of Tory spending cuts, local citizens and others in defending local services”. The letter opens up the whole question of introducing a new and more overtly political approach instead.
It is simply a matter of fact that in the absence of such a mass campaign any attempt to introduce an illegal budget would be liable to be overturned, with councillors debarred from office and spending decisions taken over by the council officers or the Secretary of State. But the letter precisely goes on to advocate building such a mass campaign. The role of the LRC and the Labour left is to pressure our local councils through CLPs and wider campaigning groups including Momentum, to make sure that the call for such a mass campaign is made into a reality, and develops to an extent which makes a bolder course of action possible.
The election of a radical left leadership, with an overwhelming mandate from members of supporters of the Party, has changed the situation which the LRC faces. We are now not only defending the rights of individual councillors to raise the need for no-cuts budgets, and supporting them in the face of disciplinary measures – which we will continue to do. Rather, we now have the chance to develop and implement a strategy for the whole of Labour’s local government base to resist the cuts in practice. But only by mobilising significant sections of our communities will this become a practical option.
In no sense should the existing legal situation be used as an excuse to implement Tory cuts. If Labour’s new commitment to being an “anti-austerity” party is to be credible, we need to be demonstrating at a local level that we are willing in practice to challenge the imposition of these cuts. It does not automatically follow that setting a legal budget means simply passing on the cuts to our communities. Since they have a disproportionate impact on women, disabled people and minority ethnic communities, cuts which would further widen existing inequalities must not be passed on. The LRC calls on councils to exhaust all available avenues under the law, including extensive drawing-down of reserves and use of prudential borrowing powers, to forestall the latest round of cuts while an effective mass campaign of resistance is built.
In the spirit of the decision to respect the genuine difference between MPs by giving them a free vote over the bombing of Syria, we also call for a radical overhaul of the Councillors’ Contract to ensure that individual councillors have the freedom to express their views over issues much closer to home. If the Party can relax the whip on issues of life and death, surely it might be relaxed on questions like cuts to essential social care?
At the same time we recognise the dangers of council leaders and officers interpreting the leadership’s letter as a green light for continuing with the cuts. Some Labour councillors appear to need reminding that they are political representatives and not just competent and compassionate administrators. If Labour fails to respond to the challenge of building a mass campaign of resistance to Tory-driven austerity at a local level, the whole question of our credibility as an “anti-austerity” party will be undermined. We will look like the kind of party who makes promises in opposition but fails to deliver on them in power. Worse, if we fail to build a mass campaign against these Tory cuts, we will have failed to create the political basis in public opinion for throwing out this government
and getting a radical Corbyn-led Labour government elected.
We cannot stress enough the urgency of building a broad, united campaign against the Tory cuts which actively mobilises our communities behind mass resistance. This would open up new possibilities, including expanding and democratising the whole budget-setting process by introducing forms of community participation and deliberation over the needs of their own communities. This is not the end of the debate, it’s only the beginning. It’s high time that Labour brought a new politics into local democracy.
14th December 2015
‘Hope’ against the cuts
This is a very sharp and political play. It shows the impossible position that Labour councils are being pushed into because of the cuts. It is a play, not a political pamphlet, and ends on a bleakly pessimistic note as the commissioners take over the democratically elected council’s affairs. This should be food for thought for us all. How do we stop this happening? How do we begin a national campaign against the cuts?
‘Hope’ , a play Reviewed by Stuart King
The day before I saw Hope, a new play about a council making deep cuts in services, I read a profile piece in the Guardian on the labour leader of Newcastle Council, Nick Forbes. He talked in the interview about “the impossible service cuts” the council faced because of the governments funding cuts.
He said in just one area, social care, Whitehall grants had been cut by 32% while demand had increased by 40%. Having cut £37 million from the budget last year, Newcastle face a £38 million cut this year, with a further £90 million cuts in the pipeline over the following three years! Little wonder that Forbes predicts social unrest with many public services becoming “completely untenable” in the years ahead. And Newcastle is not alone, the National Audit Office has recently predicted that more than half the councils in England are at risk of financial failure in the next five years.
Jack Thorne’s play, set in a northern English town, opens with the local Labour council leaders sitting down facing just such a scenario. But as with Nick Forbes it never enters the heads of Hillary, the council leader, or her deputy Mark, that there is any alternative to implementing the cuts. They settle down to picking the areas; libraries, street lighting, the swimming pool, museum, centres for the disabled, which they will cut or close completely.
But their plans quickly come unstuck. The proposal to shut the social centre for the disabled, run by Mark’s ex-wife Gina, is leaked and all hell breaks loose. An imaginative campaign to prevent the closure hits the national headlines, thousands sign a petition against it and Miliband is on the phone telling the council they are “polluting Labour’s message” for the election.
So they do what every council does when faced with serious resistance in one area, they retreat on the disabled centre and instead cut two Sure Start Centres in a predominantly Pakistani and Bangladeshi area of the borough. The resulting row and protests sees clashes between the EDL and the local protesting Asian community. A Pakistani shopkeeper is stabbed to death late at night. “Were the perpetrators white – EDL?” asks Mark. “We don’t know” replies Sarwan an Asian councillor, “it was where we had turned the lights off.”
The play follows the characters through both their political and personal crises. Mark, played by The Thick Of It actor Paul Higgins, wants to be “a good man” and struggles with his alcoholism, his precociously intelligent son and his sometime partner who is also a councillor and daughter of the ex-leader. The play sometimes feels like a sit-com and makes you wonder why TV hasn’t taken up the challenge of a council based sit-com, there is plenty of black comedy there for the taking.
The plot takes a dramatic turn when the councillors, pressed by Sarwan, revolt and decide to refuse to set a budget, provoking the government to send in an administrator. Sarwan is convincing when pointing out the class nature of the Tory-Lib Dem cuts “Hart council in Hampshire, the least deprived local authority – net loss of these cuts £28 per person – while in Liverpool district B, the most deprived local authority – net loss £807 per person. How does that make you not want to tear some ones throat out?” Indeed, because this is not just a script but real figures.
While this play is not a political drama of the standard of a David Hare, it certainly is a play of the moment, something the Royal Court Theatre is particularly good at, encouraging young writers and multi ethnic casts, and pulling in young audiences absent in most West End theatres.
But don’t get your hopes up for a happy ending. These councillors turn out to be as useless in opposition as they were in power. Incapable of mobilising the town and obsessed with returning to “business as normal”. But should we expect anything different? Isn’t this the reality of the Labour Party today.
“Hope”, by Jack Thorne , runs at the Royal Court, London, from 26 November to January 10th
9th December 2015
Walthamstow: what really happened
By Sue Wheat
Copied from Red Pepper magazine
I just want to set the record straight for anyone reading or listening to the news about Walthamstow and Stella Creasy, which as far as I can tell is totally untrue.
On Tuesday a local resident Sophie Bolt and Rev Steven Saxby organised a family vigil, which myself and others helped to publicise quickly on social media. No one asked me to do it, I just did it.
It was a beautiful, calm meet-up of for anyone who wanted to show our MP Stella Creasy that we wanted her to vote NO on air strikes in Syria. We met at the Queen’s Road mosque with candles in jam jars and walked quietly to Stella’s Labour office on Orford Road, where there were speeches by religious and community leaders.
It was a beautiful, community, inspiring family event of people trying to make their voices heard against the airstrikes and trying to influence Stella, even though we knew she was in Westminster.
We took post-it notes and thought it would be powerful to write messages of peace and stick them on the office window. It looked beautiful and powerful.
The next day we realised someone had put up a Facebook post with a picture of the start of the vigil, which was outside the mosque. You can see the mosque on the right if you zoom in, but mostly it’s just the houses next to it. He claimed we were outside Stella’s house and said something incendiary about her not having children to worry about. (His exact post was: ‘outside [her] house… apparently she has still to make up her mind – and she has no children to upset’.) He managed to get some police in the pic which made it look like a demo and it was dark and blurry. In fact the very low police presence were very helpful and friendly throughout.
Then we went to her office about half a mile away. There were about 200 people including children and various community and religious leaders spoke – it was a very inspiring peace rally. The police were laid-back and friendly there was no intrusive police presence.
Now for the most worrying thing: the picture and Facebook post was found by the Independent newspaper and used in an article. This started off a mass media misinformation story about constituents bullying Stella. It was then picked up by LBC radio, the Standard and many other media and went viral on social media. I tried to counteract lots of it, especially with journalists following up the story.
When I realised that the Independent had used his picture and post to create their story stating Stella was targeted I contacted the journalist but she wouldn’t retract it. Then it went all over the world. I was sobbing with frustration. Please share this version of events.
There may of course be things I don’t know that happened separate to the vigil. All I know is the vigil was peaceful and non-threatening and the thousands of Facebook posts I’ve seen from Walthamstow residents are respectful but utterly desperate to share their views with Stella to vote NO. That is democracy – that is what she asked for. That is not bullying.
What a stressful few days. Peace. And do share.
Update – Rev Steven Saxby, one of the organisers of the vigil, adds:
“This week I took part in a vigil with a wide section of the local community. I am deeply saddened by the misinformation about the vigil which has circulated in the media, and grateful to Sue Wheat for correcting the misreporting of the vigil.
I am also surprised that some in the party appear to be overly influenced by irresponsible coverage in the media, such as the Mail’s description of the peaceful people on our vigil being called ‘Hard-left hate mobs’ and the Mirror stating ‘Vicars, imams and net trolls target MPs’.
I am shocked by Tom Watson’s statement on Radio 4 today that ‘any Labour members on that demo should be removed from the party’.
At the same time as I condemn intimidation of MPs or their staff, I reiterate that the vigil was not intimidation, and condemn those who seek to portray democratic, peaceful actions as such. This is also is a form of intimidation.
For my part, I shall not be intimidated into not speaking on issues about which I am passionate and alongside others within and beyond the Labour Party.
I refute the erroneous allegations about me and about our peaceful vigil, and look forward to continuing to support Stella Creasy as MP for Walthamstow, and the campaigns to elect Sadiq Khan as mayor and Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister.”
9th December 2015
Momentum; where we stand
Statement from the Momentum Facebook page on December 8th
It has always been our intention to be an outward facing group. That’s entirely in keeping with the Corbyn leadership campaign over the summer, which reached out to people who had become disillusioned with mainstream politics and the lack of a coherent alternative on the left.
Momentum sprang out of a desire to help empower people previously not politicised, to encourage those people to engage in debate and to organise on issues which affect them in their communities. So we think that it’s right for Momentum to be seeking to work with coalitions and campaigning groups outside the Labour Party, nationally and locally.
What we will not allow, however, and we don’t think our supporters will accept, is for our grassroots network to be used as a vehicle for other groups to push their party agendas, which have for decades been set against the Labour Party and those members who have worked hard to get us to this position.
We will work with other groups and campaigns, but we cannot allow Momentum to be used as a vehicle for other parties. So if you are a member of the Socialist Party, or the SWP for instance, you cannot be involved in decision making within Momentum.
4th December 2015
Oldham West and Royton Victory!
Well done to all those who worked towards the Labour victory in the byelection
3rd December 2015
Voted to Bomb Syria: Is Your MP Here?
Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West)
Alan Campbell (Tynemouth)
Alan Johnson (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle)
Alison McGovern (Wirral South)
Angela Eagle (Wallasey)
Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge)
Ann Coffey (Stockport)
Anna Turley (Redcar)
Ben Bradshaw (Exeter)
Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South)
Caroline Flint (Don Valley)
Chris Bryant (Rhondda)
Chris Leslie (Nottingham East)
Chuka Umunna (Streatham)
Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East)
Conor McGinn (St Helens North)
Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central)
Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East)
Frank Field (Birkenhead)
Gareth Thomas (Harrow West)
Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West)
George Howarth (Knowsley)
Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
Gloria De Piero (Ashfield)
Graham Jones (Hyndburn)
Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham)
Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East)
Helen Jones (Warrington North)
Hilary Benn (Leeds Central)
Holly Lynch (Halifax)
Ian Austin (Dudley North)
Jamie Reed (Copeland)
Jenny Chapman (Darlington)
Jim Dowd (Lewisham West and Penge)
Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse)
Joan Ryan (Enfield North)
John Spellar (Warley)
John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness)
Keith Vaz (Leicester East)
Kevan Jones (North Durham)
Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)
Liz Kendall (Leicester West)
Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)
Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree)
Lucy Powell (Manchester Central)
Margaret Beckett (Derby South)
Margaret Hodge (Barking)
Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood)
Mary Creagh (Wakefield)
Michael Dugher (Barnsley East)
Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark)
Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East)
Peter Kyle (Hove)
Phil Wilson (Sedgefield)
Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North)
Simon Danczuk (Rochdale)
Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden)
Stella Creasy (Walthamstow)
Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth)
Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South)
Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland)
Tom Watson (West Bromwich East)
Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central)
Vernon Coaker (Gedling)
Wayne David (Caerphilly)
Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford)
28th November 2015
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, responding to the Prime Minister’s statement on Syria:
“I would like to thank the Prime Minister for providing an advance copy of his remarks. After the despicable and horrific attacks in Paris a fortnight ago the whole House will, I’m sure, agree that our first priority must be the security of Britain and the safety of the British people.
“So when we consider the Prime Minister’s case for military action in Syria, the issue of whether what he proposes strengthens - or undermines - our national security must be front and centre stage.
“There is no doubt that the so-called Islamic State group has imposed a reign of terror on millions in Iraq, Syria and Libya. All that ISIS stands for and does is contrary to everything those of us on these benches have struggled for over generations.
“And there is no doubt that it poses a threat to our own people.
“The question must now be whether extending the UK bombing from Iraq to Syria is likely to reduce, or increase, that threat and whether it will counter, or spread, the terror campaign ISIS is waging in the Middle East.
“With that in mind, I would like to put seven questions to the Prime Minister.
“First, does the Prime Minister believe that extending air strikes to Syria - which is already being bombed by the US, France, Russia and other powers - will make a significant military impact on a campaign which has so far seen ISIS gain, as well as lose, territory?
“Does he expect it will be a war-winning strategy? And why does he think other members of the original coalition - including the Gulf States, Canada and Australia - have halted their participation?
“Second, is the Prime Minister’s view that the air campaign against ISIS-held areas can be successful without ground forces?
“If not, does he believe that Kurdish forces or the relatively marginal and remote Free Syrian Army would be in a position to take back ISIS-held territory if the air campaign were successful?
“Is it not more likely that other stronger jihadist and radical Salafist forces would take over?
“Third, without credible or acceptable ground forces, isn’t the logic of an intensified air campaign mission creep and western boots on the ground? Can he today rule out the deployment of British ground forces to Syria?
“Fourth, does the Prime Minister believe that UN security council resolution 2249 gives “clear and unambiguous authorisation” for UK air strikes?
“And what coordinated action with other UN member states has there been under the terms of the resolution to cut off funding, oil revenues and arms supplies from ISIS in the territory it currently holds?
“And in the absence of any coordinated UN military or diplomatic strategy, does he believe that more military forces over Syria could increase the risks of dangerous incidents, such as the shooting down of a Russian military aircraft by Turkish forces this week?
“Fifth, how does the Prime Minister think an extension of UK bombing would contribute to a comprehensive negotiated political settlement of the Syrian civil war, which is widely believed to be the only way to ensure the defeat of ISIS in the country?
“Sixth, what assessment has the Prime Minister been given about the likely impact of British air strikes in Syria on the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK?
“And what impact does he believe an intensified air campaign will have on civilian casualties in ISIS-held Syrian territory and the wider Syrian refugee crisis?
“Finally, in the light of the record of western military interventions in recent years, including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya does the Prime Minister accept that UK bombing of Syria could risk more of what President Obama called ‘unintended consequences’ – and that a lasting defeat of ISIS can only be secured by Syrians and forces from within the region?”
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