Campaign news

Left Slate: Please Publicise

24th January 2017

Left Slate: Please Publicise

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

*Please copy + paste + share*

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

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

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

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Momentum and the LRC

21st January 2017

Momentum and the LRC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore resolve to endorse the following:

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

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

 

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Corbyn is right, action on high pay is overdue

10th January 2017

Corbyn is right,
action on high pay is overdue

By Michael Calderbank

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

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

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

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

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

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Israeli State Subverting Democracy in the UK

10th January 2017

Israeli State Subverting Democracy in the UK

By Graham Bash and Mick Brooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8th January 2017

By Seema Chandwani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a Tweet, the article was nonsense.

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

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

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

8th January 2017

John McDonnell

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

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

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

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

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

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Education Policy In Turmoil

8th January 2017

By Kevin Courtney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Theresa May Offers No Solutions

8th January 2017

Jon Trickett MP

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

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

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

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

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

29th December 2016

John McDonnell MP

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

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

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

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

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What Momentum Should Do

29th December 2016

By Mick Brooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meet Housing Need And Help Power The Economy!

28th December 2016

By Barry Ewart

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

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

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Military Action is not the Answer for Aleppo

24th December 2016

By Liz Davies and Mike Phipps

What is happening in Aleppo is a human rights calamity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article originally appeared in the ‘Morning Star’.

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Momentum, Democracy, The Trade Unions and The Labour Party

22nd December 2016

By Maria Exall

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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


1.The purpose of Momentum

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

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

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

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


2.Momentum and Equality

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

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

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

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


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

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

a. Decision making in the Labour Party

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

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

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

b.The case for a GC structure

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

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

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

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

c. Building up the trade union link

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


4. Problems with ‘digital democracy’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


5. Some cultural/structural criticisms

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EU Scrooges Spoil Greeks’ Christmas

21st December 2016

EU Scrooges Spoil Greeks’ Christmas

By Mick Brooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LESSONS

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

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

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

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

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

Capitalism is a failed system.

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Local government funding in crisis

19th December 2016

By Martin Wicks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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OPINION - Time for a 20 hour working week

16th December 2016

By Barry Ewart

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

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

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

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

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

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Rail Dispute; what is Peter Wilkinson up to?

16th December 2016

Rail Dispute; what is Peter Wilkinson up to?

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

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

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

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

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

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New Labour dissected

15th December 2016

New Labour dissected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vote for Len McCluskey!

14th December 2016

Vote for Len McCluskey!

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

See for details

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Southern Rail Chaos

13th December 2016

Southern Rail Chaos

By Mick Brooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The case for the renationalisation of the railways is overwhelming.

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LRC STATEMENT ON MOMENTUM

13th December 2016

LRC STATEMENT ON MOMENTUM

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

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

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

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

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

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Lessons of Richmond Park

12th December 2016

Lessons of Richmond Park

By Mike Phipps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tories’ record on disability: a damning indictment

11th December 2016

Ellen Clifford
Disabled People Against Cuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Threat of Right Wing Populism

6th December 2016

The Threat of Right Wing Populism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many people no longer understand what we stand for.

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

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

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

If we are only seen as protectors of the status quo how can we expect people to turn to us when they can see that status quo has failed?

We must stand for real change, and a break with the failed elite politics and economics of the past.

If we do, I have every confidence that the principles of solidarity, internationalism and socialism that we stand for can be at the heart of European politics in the 21st century.

That’s why it is vital that our rhetoric cannot be used to legitimise the scapegoating of refugees or migrant workers.

When we talk about refugees we need to talk about them as human beings, not as numbers, or as a burden, but instead as children, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters.

And when we face the challenge of migration we need to work together to halt the exploitation of migrant labour to undercut pay and conditions in a race to the bottom across Europe. We cannot allow the parties of the right to sow divisions and fan the flames of fear.

When it comes to Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Union we in the Labour party respect that decision, and we want to work together with Socialist and progressive parties across Europe to find the best possible solution that benefits both Britain and the EU in the Brexit negotiations.

Labour is calling on the British Government to guarantee the rights of all EU Citizens before Article 50 negotiations begin, and not to use them as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

Labour is pushing for Brexit negotiations to be carried out in a transparent manner, in a spirit that aims to find a deal that works for all across our the continent.
That is why I am inviting leaders from socialist and progressive parties and movements across Europe to a special conference in London in February.

I believe our movement has the new ideas to take on and beat the populist right.. But we must harvest those ideas and that energy, allow a space within our parties for new ideas to be heard and build a movement with a democratic culture at its very heart.

It is when people lose faith in the power of politics to improve people’s lives that the space opens up for the far right to scapegoat and blame. Our task is harder, to restore people’s confidence that we have both the vision and an understanding of the lives of those we represent to change them for the better.

As we head towards 2017 many people are worried about the direction that Europe is taking. Well now is time for us to turn the tide. To put the interests of working people front and centre stage and to fight for our values, of social justice, solidarity, equality and internationalism.

If we do that together, and break with the failed politics of the past, I am confident we can overcome the challenge from the populist right.

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Whither Momentum?

5th December 2016

Whither Momentum?

By Pete Firmin

Early in November the Momentum Steering Committee (SC) issued a statement, “The SC recognises and regrets the discontent and frustration felt by Momentum members in recent days… The Committee recognises the need for a greater level of accountability and transparency”.

This welcome statement represented a step back from a situation which looked as if it could lead to an implosion in Momentum.

At a SC meeting on Friday 28th October, called at less than 24 hours’ notice, a majority voted that the scheduled National Committee (NC) meeting would not take place the following weekend, and that the Momentum conference, due to take place in February 2017, would take decisions by One Member One Vote (OMOV).

Whatever your views on OMOV versus delegate democracy, this was remarkable. Papers had been circulated with different views on how conference should be conducted. These were being discussed by Momentum groups and due to go to the NC for decision. And yet an email was sent out to all Momentum members early on the Saturday morning, announcing that OMOV had won the day!

There was uproar. Addressing the LRC conference on the Saturday, Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, was highly critical. Momentum regional committees meeting that weekend in London, the South East, Eastern and North East regions echoed this. Wrack and ‘dissident’ members of the SC put out a measured statement calling for an open meeting of NC members for 5th November (the date cancelled by the SC).

Thankfully, the SC majority blinked. As well as recognising the resentment they had provoked, they reinstated the NC for 3rd December, though a problem remains – they still recommend that a delegate conference should be followed by an OMOV referendum of members, something which could lead to all kinds of problems. Such decisions should be a matter for the NC. The informal meeting of NC reps on the 5th November, exchanged useful ideas around how Momentum’s functioning could be improved, ‘ownership’ of Momentum and management of resources.

This crisis highlights a democratic deficit, the most extreme and public example of a culture of over-control, lack of accountability, lack of due process, tokenism and preferential treatment. There has been a lack of clarity around Momentum with decisions being too often taken by the unelected and ‘powerbrokers’. The result too often was a lack of direction, heavyhanded control and knee-jerk responses.

With Corbyn winning the leadership a major battle was on to wrest policy, campaigns and control from the Party machine, PLP and an entrenched right wing. Yet Momentum has appeared reluctant to take this on, barely spelling it out to supporters, many of whom are new to political activity and assume that electing Jeremy is ‘job done’.

This weakness was shown by the right dominating CLP delegates at this year’s Labour Conference - and at the London regional conference on 12th November.
Without a campaign encouraging members to get involved in the structures of the Party, the right will imprison Jeremy in a right wing machine. As I write, Momentum has sent out an email announcing such a campaign.

Hurrah, this is just what has been needed! Where were the model resolutions on issues like Trident, encouraging supporters to get Momentum sponsored motions adopted by CLPs for Conference? Where is the campaign against suspensions? The successes, like getting centre left candidates elected to the NEC, show what is possible. Many Momentum public statements leave supporters wondering ‘who decided that was our policy’, creating confusion on issues like parliamentary selection. Momentum seems focused on its own campaigns, rather than arguing for the Party to adopt them, playing into the hands of the right. And in the unions, without alienating supportive union leaders, we need a drive to take support for Corbyn’s policies deeper into the unions and workplaces. We cannot rely solely on support from the top.

‘The World Transformed’, the series of meetings hosted by Momentum in Liverpool was excellent. Well attended, lively debates took place, but interaction with Labour’s conference down the road was too little. Where was the Momentum leaflet to those attending conference, rather than this being left to others?
None of this means Momentum should be simply a caucus for organising in the Party. Rather, it should be active in campaigns around defence of the NHS, education, free movement etc. But these campaigns should not be divorced from activity aimed at transforming the Labour Party. To transform the world, we need public campaigns around important issues, linked to that fight to make the Labour Party fit for purpose. One without the other will fail. Where, for instance, there is a local campaign to defend the NHS, Momentum supporters should be encouraged to participate and to get Labour Parties to affiliate. Only where no campaign exists and the Party can’t be persuaded to set up one, should Momentum think of itself acting as the catalyst to initiate one
. We must ensure Momentum is made fit for purpose before, as well as at, its conference in February if we are to seize the opportunities opened up by Jeremy’s election.

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What kind of Momentum conference?

1st December 2016

What kind of Momentum conference?

Mike Phipps ponders the case for an OMOV structure

Momentum, the organisation created to advance Corbynista ideas within the labour movement and beyond, presents a tremendous opportunity to take socialist ideas to a far wider audience than has been possible for generations.

Yet a huge amount of energy appears to be focused, less on turning outward to engage this audience, than on turning inward to debate internal structures. Much of this debate is now centred on what kind of national conference Momentum needs. Discussion has quickly polarised between those who support a delegate-based conference, with attendees made up of delegates elected by local groups and affiliates, and those who favour One Member One Vote, with live streaming and online voting.

Personally, I want whatever makes the 20,000 members who have joined Momentum feel engaged and that their input is valued. I want these new supporters to become active in spreading the Corbyn agenda into parts of society where it has yet to reach. Of course there are difficulties with an OMOV conference. The questions put in online plebiscites may be selected in advance by the leadership and may not be open to amendment. The whole approach is contrary to the traditions of the labour movement and trade union affiliates in particular have reservations. We need a lot more information about how the new leftwing party in Spain, Podemos, used online techniques to construct their programme and engage their members.

But I don’t think the delegate model works ideally either. I’ve attended two London Regional Committees, made up of delegates from local groups. The first spent most of its time passing policy resolutions and spent less than 15 minutes on organising. The second started at 11am and finished at 4pm and didn’t complete its agenda, so had to be reconvened a couple of weeks later.

In theory, this London Regional Committee is composed of representatives from local groups. In practice, most of the people who have the appetite for a five hour meeting are highly committed activists, especially those from small left groups present in Momentum. These groups caucus beforehand and arrive with pre-prepared position papers on pretty much everything on the agenda, so debate polarises between different groups trying to win their line. Consensus becomes impossible. Ordinary members who want to build Momentum find this very frustrating.

Theoretically, the delegates who attend these meetings have a mandate from their local groups and are accountable to them. In practice, this is dubious. I wonder if the delegate who moved opposition to supporting a broad Stop the Purge conference, focused on the witch-hunt inside the Party and sponsored by Bakers Union President Ronnie Draper, on the grounds that it was a “Zionist front”(!) had a mandate for his outburst. One of the London Region Committee delegates, Jill Mountford, was pretty annoyed about this sectarian attack - and rightly - but in her blog she criticises Momentum founder Jon Lansman for suggesting that Regional Committees might be unrepresentative of the grassroots.

This is not an isolated example. A member from one locality presented a motion, apparently passed by her local group, only to be contradicted by a delegate from the same group, who said they’d never seen it. Another ‘delegate’ on the London Committee claims to represent a local group which hasn’t met since its members opposed the proposal that its officers be elected only every three years.

Delegate-based structures may work better in some organisations than others. Many Momentum members are not even involved in local groups. Rather than engaging the whole membership, a traditional delegate structure for Momentum may just be the best tactic for empowering hardcore activists, who champion face-to-face politics and dismiss OMOV as passive “clicktivism”. But as a recent blog from Hackney Momentum remarked, “Corbyn’s victory, and thus Momentum’s existence, are only possible because of OMOV in the Labour party.” Inclusion, it argues, is the key to transforming passivity into activity. “The ‘new politics‘ is about not delegating your responsibility to take part in and learn about politics,” it concludes.

Behind this organisational discussion, a battle for control of Momentum is being waged. While the traditional left may have a great deal of experience and historical knowledge to offer, it has not always been organisationally inclusive. Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the 2015 leadership contest was largely the result of new forms of organising, in which the online campaign was absolutely pivotal.

The left traditionally has been quite good at focusing on internal battles and polarising debate in ways that alienate large numbers of potential supporters. This time the stakes are higher than ever before. We have a huge responsibility not to alienate our potential supporters and undermine the entire Corbyn project. It will be no victory if the “correct” side wins in Momentum, but we fail to get Jeremy Corbyn elected to power.

From the December issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC

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Keith Henderson Appeal Successful!

30th November 2016

Keith Henderson Appeal Successful!

All legal costs have now been paid in full. Keith would like to take this time to thank everyone who donated to the appeal fund and give special thanks to John McDonnell and the LRC for all their support over the last five years.

Everyone who donated will be aware that in September 2013 the Watford Employment Tribunal made a Judgment that I had suffered unlawful direct discrimination by my employer, the GMB trade union, on the basis of my left wing democratic socialist beliefs. The GMB has successfully appealed against this decision, right up to the Court of Appeal, which meant I had to pay the GMB costs of £12,000.

The Court of Appeal was of the opinion that the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) Judge could make a substitute finding of fact without hearing any further evidence or referring the case back to the Watford Employment Tribunal to seek clarification on their Judgment.

My lawyers still believe this is wrong and the case should be referred back to the original Employment Tribunal Panel for clarification, but, it will cost too much money to pursue the case any further so I have had to accept this decision.

Looking on the bright side Socialism is now a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 as a result of this case. This is a permanent gain for the labour movement that has been won.

This case will go down in the history books as having made the law to show discrimination against someone on grounds of left wing socialist beliefs is a breach of the equalities legislation and is therefore unlawful, that in itself is very important.

Paragraph 62 of the EAT judgment, which still stands, states
” At paragraph 48 it concluded that I am a ‘left-wing democratic socialist’ and held the beliefs identified. Moreover it found that “there were clear outward signs of those beliefs being manifested… particularly clear from the picketing incident…” The Tribunal concluded that left-wing democratic socialism is a protected belief for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and this conclusion is not challenged on this appeal.”

Socialism is now a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
In addition it is the case that if it wasn’t for the efforts of all of you comrades in coming to my assistance in helping to raise the £12,000 necessary myself and my family would have been made homeless as a result of the relentless drive with no expense spared to discredit me.

Once again, many thanks to all the comrades who helped out.
We still achieved a historical victory in making socialism a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and that is what we should take from this legal battle. Every shop steward who is victimised in the workplace for representing their members should bear this in mind.

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Momentum debates Democratic Structures

26th November 2016

Momentum debates Democratic Structures

By Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and Chair of the LRC

The debate in Momentum about the organisation’s future structures hit the news recently and some journalists clearly enjoyed seeing a public disagreement blow up within the Corbyn-supporting movement. But we should not be afraid of debate. There are differences of opinion and these should be discussed at all levels of Momentum. In my view the key areas of disagreement relate to two issues. Firstly, what is the role of local Momentum groups - especially in their relations to the London-based office? Secondly, what type of Momentum conference should be held in February? Should it be a delegate-based conference or some sort of ‘online’ event?

One thing that has emerged is a level of distrust of local groups from some people - including people on the Momentum Steering Committee. On occasion Momentum members at local level have been referred to as ‘self-selecting activists’.

This approach results in opposition to a delegate type structure for any conference. We need to address these different aspects of the debate. What is the role of the activists? (Indeed, what is an activist?) And, secondly, what is the best way of organising an event (conference) to take the movement forward?

In defence of activism

One of the most famous stories from the US civil rights movement is of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. Her subsequent arrest led to the Montgomery bus boycott and was a key moment in the emergence of a new phase of mass struggle for equality, democracy and civil rights. Rosa Parks is now internationally seen as an outstanding and heroic figure.

The myth is that she was just a tired woman who wanted to return from work and that the demand she should give up her seat for a white person was simply the final straw which provoked an ‘ordinary’ woman to rebel and (perhaps accidentally) to help to create a new mass movement.

But, of course, the role of Rosa Parks in those events was not accidental. Parks was an activist. She came from a family of activists. Her husband had been involved in the campaign for the Scottsboro Boys (black teenagers falsely accused of rape). Rosa was member of the main civil rights organisation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She had attended the Highlander Folk School - which trained labour movement and civil rights activists. Even the tactic of refusing to move from a seat reserved for whites had been discussed and attempted before. Like the best campaigning tactics, it emerged from the real experience of those affected. The point is that no mass movement or campaign can be built without activists.

Activists are those who are not simply supportive of a cause but are prepared to put themselves out to discuss and organise for it. Every strike, every struggle of ordinary people, every gain made by the labour movement has required the involvement of activists. It is also often the case that activists are maligned and abused in their own time (as was Parks or King) only to be sanctified by those in power once their battle has been fought and won.

So we should not accept any denigration of activists, self-selecting or otherwise. The truth is that since activism is a voluntary function it must be, by definition, self selecting. The trade unions and the Labour Party rely on activists - as does Momentum - and we should not remotely apologise for that.

What type of conference?

The second aspect to the debate relates to the type of conference which Momentum should hold. The people who don’t like the role of activists (despite being activists themselves) have argued for an online or virtual conference. It is said that this reflects ‘new politics’ and a ‘new way of doing things’. My fear is that this approach might avoid one set of problems only to create another.

It is argued that the online approach would encourage wider participation. The truth is that it would create different problems. If everything is online, why would anyone even attend a conference? Who would therefore speak or make proposals? Simply a different group of self-selecting activists!

If voting is to simply be online who frames the questions? Anyone who has ever experienced a management ‘consultation’ of the workforce will know that these things are easily rigged and never inspire confidence in those consulted. Local authorities, NHS Trusts and a whole range of public bodies do the same thing. The question is set by those who control the process and is designed to produce the ‘right’ answer. As a result there is widespread public hostility and cynicism to such consultation processes.

Secondly, the online approach favours particular activists over others. Those who have an active social media profile or who have access to email lists and databases will have a significant advantage over those who may simply be campaigning at a local level, in a local CLP and local Momentum group.

So a key question is what are we trying to achieve? For me, if Momentum is to establish itself as a serious left wing campaign of Labour Party members and supporters, the starting point has to be local groups. It is at local level where we need to build the Labour Party, where we need to help people train and develop themselves. The local groups are certainly not perfect, and they don’t exist everywhere, but if Momentum is to develop and sustain itself for the long term the local groups need to be built and to be the basis of the campaign - the building blocks for the future.

With good will the difficulties and disagreements can be overcome and a way forward can be found. That can involve online discussion and decision making but it also needs to have representatives from local groups at the heart of the process and of the conference. Let’s find a way through.

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Brexit – where do we stand?

24th November 2016

Brexit – where do we stand?

By Mick Brooks

The referendum on leaving the European Union was not of our making. David Cameron proposed it in order to settle the internal warfare within the Tory Party.
Whether we voted to remain or to leave is now neither here nor there. Britain is now set to leave the EU on terms negotiated by the Tories, our class enemy. On the other hand Theresa May’s government is insecure, with a small majority in Parliament. It is clear they are clueless as to what will happen next.

What does the decision to leave mean? The problem with a referendum on such a broad issue is that different meanings can be read into the vote. The Tory government under Theresa May asserts that it shows that migration must be controlled more tightly. That was not on the ballot paper, but that is their agenda in any case.

We are entitled to know what the government’s priorities are before Article 50 is triggered. Article 50 of the European Treaties is the provision that begins the process of quitting the EU. The labour movement has a duty to insist on its own priorities and has the right to vote against the implementation of Article 50 if Brexit is used as an excuse to trash workers’ rights.

The High Court judgement opposing the government’s intention to push through the implementation of Article 50 without democratic consultation is correct, despite the hysteria of the Brexiteers. Their slogan was “taking back control”. It is therefore ironic that the terms of exit may remain a closed book to the British people. We don’t want to buy a pig in a poke! 

For May, exit is to be achieved by use of the royal prerogative rather than the will of Parliament. Parliament is an imperfect expression of the popular will, but it’s all we have. In effect May wants to assume dictatorial powers over the process of negotiation. She should be reminded that Charles I, who was excessively addicted to using the royal prerogative rather than Parliamentary approval, was cut down to size as a result.

The pamphlet produced by UNITE entitled ‘Brexit on Our Terms’ calls for, “no triggering of Article 50 until we see what exit from the EU will look like and what the alternatives are.” The union correctly argues that the UK government should negotiate a transitional trade agreement with the EU before triggering Article 50.
We need to open up a debate on the terms and the kind of exit that Britain will make. This represents an opportunity for Labour to defend its own people and expose the vulnerability of the Tory government at the same time.

Once Article 50 is triggered the British government will be plunged into fantastically complex negotiations to extricate Britain from the EU for at least two years over such stuff as phytosanitary certificates (certificates on the health of plants).

Britain has been a member of the EU for more than forty years. Almost half our trade is with our partners in the single market. What is to be done about the vast mass of EU regulation that has been incorporated into UK law since 1973?

Much of this legislation is to harmonise best practice within the single market; regulations to improve the energy efficiency of vacuum cleaners is one example. Other rules are intended to harmonise sales across the EU. Rules on electrical plug sockets and voltage are one of an infinite number of such regulations. EU rules have also dictated cleaner beaches in the UK. Do we really want to be swimming in sh*t? Is this what the Brexiteers meant by “taking back control”?

The consensus of informed opinion is that the UK can’t have unrestricted access to the single market after exit without allowing free movement of labour. Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are quite clear on this point. Free movement of labour is one of the four fundamental freedoms of the EU, along with free movement of goods, of capital and of establishment (the right to set up service provision anywhere in the EU).

• We stand four-square in defence of the UK’s need for unrestricted access to the single market. If that is lost, there is no doubt that jobs will disappear here.
• We also defend the right of workers to move wherever they think is best for them. Nobody is proposing restrictions on the power of capital to move where profit opportunities are best, whether inside or outside the EU. In that situation supporting restrictions on the movement of labour is equivalent to tying one arm behind workers’ backs in their negotiations with capital.
• The labour movement needs to draw clear red lines right away. Some workers’ employment rights as well as environmental and consumer protection laws are enshrined in EU legislation. They must not be magicked away in negotiations!

There is no doubt that a section of the Conservative Party and the ruling class have a ‘vision’ of Britain’s future outside the EU. It is one of a low wage, offshore tax haven where standards of all kinds – environmental and consumer standards as well as working conditions - are driven down to the bottom. This is not what we want. It is hardly credible in any case that a country of almost 65 million people can become an island sweatshop, a tax haven for international criminals and a safe house for oligarchic money.

As negotiations proceed, there will be a blizzard of legislation introduced into Parliament, usually smuggled in as statutory instruments rather than being openly debated in the House.  Jeremy Corbyn has appointed Keir Starmer as shadow minister for Brexit to keep a watchful eye on what the Tories are up to.
Two immediate questions will loom:

• The first is the future of 3 million EU citizens living in the UK. Theresa May has been accused of using the EU citizens here as ‘hostages’ in negotiations with the EU. Are they just to be thrown to the wolves, and issued with deportation orders after Brexit is accomplished?
• The fate of 1.2 million UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU is also in question. Many of these are elderly retirees who have been used to receiving health care in their host country in the same way that EU workers here can access the NHS. What will happen after Brexit? Will these mutual arrangements be torn up?

If Brexit proceeds, we have the opportunity to fight for reforms. The Common Agricultural Policy of the EU has been widely and accurately derided for its huge waste of money. Here we can make the case for a reform of agricultural subsidies. To take one example, wealthy landowners in the UK get subsidies from the CAP for the upkeep of grouse moors. Since a day’s shooting is likely to cost £3,000 these subsidies cannot be argued as necessary to provide affordable food for the poor. Grouse moors are ‘managed’ by burning off the heather. This is not environmentally friendly. Endangered birds of prey such as hen harriers are shot or poisoned by ghillies – all in order that aristocrats and their hangers-on can have their fun by slaughtering the grouse. One such parasitic laird is Paul Dacre, editor of the Eurosceptic Daily Mail. He has received £460,000 from the CAP since 2011. We suggest reform of such payments is overdue.

Likewise the Common Fisheries Policy has been blamed for overfishing and for obvious absurdities such as discard (throwing dead fish overboard because they’re the wrong sort of fish or because quotas have already been exceeded).There is no doubt that small fishing communities have been hard hit by the CFP. Jeremy Corbyn has exposed the real problem:
“The Prime Minister will be very well aware that reforms that were made three years ago actually put the power back into the hands of member states, and it is the UK Government who have given nearly two thirds of English and Welsh fishing quotas to three companies, thus excluding the small fishing communities along our coasts.” (Hansard)

Some have been calling for a second referendum. A broad ‘Yes-No’ response in a referendum to a complex interlocking set of issues can never provide a satisfactory political response – as we have seen. A second referendum is likely to raise as many questions as the first. In addition a demand for a second referendum will also inevitably be seen as an attempt to defy the express wishes of the people.

Only after the laborious negotiations following the implementation of Article 50 will the government be able to begin working out trade deals with the 197 other countries in the world. If Theresa May’s optimistic timetable is taken seriously, by 2019 the government will have nothing before it except a blank sheet of paper. Of course as negotiations proceed it is possible that the wheels could fall off the Brexit wagon. This is the Tories’ mess. Let them lie in it.

In or out of the EU the labour movement needs to present an alternative vision of Britain in the future.

This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC

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Trump, Trade Deals and the Working Class

16th November 2016

Trump, Trade Deals and the Working Class

Letter to Guardian 16th November 2016

A key lesson we need to draw from Donald Trump’s election is that toxic trade deals like the US-EU agreement TTIP are as unwanted in American society as in Europe. Trump cynically exploited public anger about these deals to win the US presidency. But we know, like Ukip here, that Trump is actually in favour of deregulation, privatisation and putting profit before people. His policies will not serve the interests of working-class communities, they will simply divide them and create the sorts of international tensions that, in previous times, sparked world wars.

TTIP was killed off by a movement of ordinary people who believe in an open, equal and democratic society where diversity is embraced and everyone’s rights are respected. We objected to TTIP because it would be bad for ordinary people and will hand power to big money – to businessmen like Donald Trump.

We know that politicians are now fearful of opposing deals like Ceta – the EU-Canada deal which is currently making its way through the European parliament. This is exactly the wrong lesson to pull from Trump’s election. To defeat the politics of racism and hatred represented by Trump and the far right in Europe, we call on politicians to support economic policies that will benefit the majority of people, eradicate poverty, create decent jobs and good public services and halt climate change. The first step politicians in Europe must take is to vote to stop Ceta in the coming weeks.

Nick Dearden Global Justice Now, Mark Dearn War on Want, Molly Scott CatoGreen party MEP, Dave Prentis Unison, Len McCluskey Unite, Kevin Courtney National Union of Teachers, Bert Schouwenburg GMB, Ruth Bergan Trade Justice Movement, Tim Flitcroft NoTTIP UK

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Stop the Violations – End Welfare ‘Reform’ NOW!

11th November 2016

Stop the Violations – End Welfare ‘Reform’ NOW!

Date: Wednesday 16th November,  Time: 5.30pm

Place: Gather at Old Palace Yard, Westminster
Join Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle to protest against the grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the UK government through welfare reform, as evidenced in the United Nations inquiry findings published this week.
The protest will also be in honour of DPAC co-founder Debbie Jolly who tragically passed away this week. Back in 2010 a small group of activists including Debbie and Linda started to campaign against the Work Capability Assessment.

At that time very few people other than those personally suffering as a result of the brutal assessment process had heard of the WCA or Atos. Debbie and others put up a tireless struggle for the past six years to expose what was happening and fight for justice.

Now ‘I Daniel Blake’ is in cinemas across the country and a UN inquiry, which Debbie put years’ of work into making happen, has found reliable evidence of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the UK government due to welfare reform.

However we still have welfare reform and things are worse now than they were when the UN conducted their enquiry and set to get even worse; we still have the WCA, the bedroom tax, changes to Access to Work and a social care support system in crisis but everyday more disabled people are losing essential income through PIP assessments, the benefit cap is about to be lowered and the introduction of Universal Credit will make thousands of households with disabled members worse off.
On Thursday MPs will debate the cut to Employment and Support Allowance which was voted through earlier this year in the Welfare Reform and Work bill.
We must act now to put an end to this conscious cruelty.
We ask that everyone who can come to Parliament on Wednesday joins us and those who can’t show their solidarity through social media with the hashtag #EndWelfareReform.

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Jeremy Corbyn on Trump’s Victory

9th November 2016

Jeremy Corbyn on Trump’s Victory

Many in Britain and elsewhere will be understandably shocked by Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, the rhetoric around it and what the election result means for the rest of the world, as well as America.

Trump’s election is an unmistakable rejection of a political establishment and an economic system that simply isn’t working for most people. It is one that has delivered escalating inequality and stagnating or falling living standards for the majority, both in the US and Britain

This is a rejection of a failed economic consensus and a governing elite that has been seen not to have listened. And the public anger that has propelled Donald Trump to office has been reflected in political upheavals across the world.

But some of Trump’s answers to the big questions facing America, and the divisive rhetoric around them, are clearly wrong.

I have no doubt, however, that the decency and common sense of the American people will prevail, and we send our solidarity to a nation of migrants, innovators and democrats.

After this latest global wake up call, the need for a real alternative to a failed economic and political system could not be clearer.

That alternative must be based on working together, social justice and economic renewal, rather than sowing fear and division. And the solutions we offer have to improve the lives of everyone, not pit one group of people against another.

Americans have made their choice. The urgent necessity is now for us all to work across continents to tackle our common global challenges: to secure peace, take action on climate change and deliver economic prosperity and justice.

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LRC Conference Report, 29th October 2016

7th November 2016

LRC Conference, 29th October

By Suzanne Gannon

On 29th October, the LRC held another successful annual conference, attended by 150 members.

The day was structured with keynote speakers introducing each section of resolutions. The resolutions and speakers, in turn, were grouped thematically. One section dealt with Equality issues, highlighting that equality has to be integrated with any struggle for socialism, with resolutions calling for the Labour Party manifesto to scrap the age discrimination in the National Minimum wage and another requesting a Labour government ends the Tory policy of appeals for deportees only after they’ve been deported.

In the Environmental issues section, a lengthy resolution called on a Labour government to publicly invest in the renewables sector, with another opposing the Gatwick and Heathrow airport expansions. In the section about Peace, one resolution called on Labour to be an internationalist party of peace and justice, and other one called on Labour to set up a Shadow Defence Diversification Agency.

In the Socialism strand, a resolution was passed demanding the repeal of the anti-union laws by a Labour government. A proposal for specific changes to be made to the Labour Party’s rule book to increase the number of CLP delegates on the NEC, and to challenge the rule change that allowed a Scottish and Welsh member to be appointed without election, was remitted to the LRC’s NEC for further consideration.

Motions were also passed on Momentum. The AGM recognised Momentum as “the main vehicle for pursuing the transformation of the Labour Party”. It also noted its democratic shortcomings, and in particular its failure to respond “rigorously enough to the purging of Party members during the recent leadership election campaign, and the weaponisation of the issue of antisemitism to attack Corbyn, including the capitulation to the demands to remove Jackie Walker as Vice Chair.”

The sessions were chaired very well, most proposals were succinctly introduced by their movers, and ample opportunities were given to members to comment on proposals from the floor. This part of the conference perhaps could have been executed a bit more deftly, as few of the resolutions were opposed. But discourse was comradely and remained on-topic.

The speakers all made strong contributions to the debate. Ronnie Draper’s (General Secretary of BFAWU) description of his suspension and subsequent readmission to the Labour Party was both humorous and tragic, as he emphasised how so many other members did not get the preferential treatment from the Compliance Unit that he got.

LRC’s President, John McDonnell, explained how the LRC was working to transform the Labour Party, with the aim of transforming our wider society. He also gave a signal that many, if not most, of the suspensions of members who had been purged during the leadership campaign, were likely to be lifted.

FBU General Secretary, Matt Wrack, gave a passionate opening talk, explaining from his perspective what the nature of the democratic deficit within Momentum was. Unfortunately, although Jon Lansman, Chair of Momentum’s Steering Committee, was scheduled to speak, he sent his apologies.

I very much appreciated the opportunity to meet up with so many like-minded people, and found the cross-over between LRC and Momentum membership refreshing. I’m sorry that I had to rush back to Yorkshire and thus missed the social that was held after the meeting ended.

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LP Democracy – bring it on!

6th November 2016

LP Democracy – bring it on!

Momentum Proposals on Democratising the Labour Party

Momentum members may have received an email seeking views in advance of the Labour Party NEC meeting on 22 November to discuss wide-ranging party reforms.

Here are some suggestions:
• Labour Party membership has tripled over the past year. There is a strong case for increasing the representation from the constituencies on the NEC. It should be remembered, though, that the trade unions created the Labour Party and their representation should be maintained.
• The Scottish and Welsh delegates should be elected at the Scottish and Welsh Conferences, not appointed by the leaders.
• Minutes of the NEC should be published.
• The votes of members of the NEC should also be published unless there are security issues.
• The broad principles of the Chakrabarti 2016 Report must be implemented.
• The Compliance Unit should be abolished.
• Iain McNicol should be sacked and the General Secretary made an elected post.

For more details on the membership purge and democratisation of the Labour Party, see:

Purge Suspension Letters

Thousands of letters have been sent out this week to suspended members advising them that their suspension has been lifted. Well, thank you very much, you might think. But hang on. These suspensions had the effect of (and were almost certainly intended to) deprive the Labour Party member of their right to vote.

So where’s the apology? There isn’t one. Members were wrongly suspended and deprived of their membership rights and apology comes there none. On the contrary members are warned in the letter that their (non-existent) sin will be kept on file. “We’re keeping a eye on you,” is the message. This is outrageous. Iain McNicol and the Compliance Unit are running amok

Ronnie Draper, General Secretary of the Bakers’ Union, reported to the LRC Conference how he was suspended. Who grassed him up? According to Ronnie it was an algorithm. (See the link at the end of this item.)

The witchfinders don’t know what they’re doing. They’re striking out blindly. Ronnie’s suspension was lifted. He was given special treatment, which he didn’t want. He wanted all suspended members to be treated fairly

On the one hand the suspension letters are an advance. McNicol and co. recognise that they haven’t got a leg to stand on when the appeals are heard. On the other hand they are still carrying on their purges which are fundamentally opposed to the basic principles of natural justice and due process (innocent until proven guilty and all that jazz).

They are holding an axe over the heads of thousands of members who haven’t done anything wrong. It is high time that the NEC installs a democratic procedure of investigating complaints and sacks McNicol and the rotten Compliance Unit.
For more details read:

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Brexit on Our Terms!

4th November 2016

Brexit on Our Terms!

By Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary of UNITE

THE BREXIT CRISIS will undoubtedly run and run. The Tories don’t have a clue how to handle the biggest ever peace time change in the UK – and amidst the political and legal wrangling, the voice of working people is straining to be heard. The referendum vote has to be accepted but that does not mean unions have to sit back and watch the decimation of UK jobs, industry and infrastructure.

That is why Unite launched a new document recently to make sure that the UK’s vitally important manufacturing sector is defended. Called Brexit On Our Terms, Unite consulted our shop stewards in manufacturing as well as the major employers’ organisations we deal with. We found there is considerable agreement on a number of key issues. These included:

• continued access to a tariff-free single market;
• no triggering of Article 50 until we see what exit from the EU will look like and what the alternatives are;
• the continuation and protection of employment rights gained through membership of the EU;
• a seat at the the table for trade unions to protect workers’ interests.

Also under discussion were the key issues of continuing infrastructure investment, access to skills and the development of an industrial strategy in a post-Brexit UK; re-shoring; procurement and the appalling attacks on foreign workers in recent months. The report also examines the alternatives to EU membership, in terms of trade, with a case study on a potential trade deal with Canada produced in consultation with our Workers Uniting partners in the United Steelworkers.

On trade deals the government is in a mess. Ministers claimed countries inside and outside the EU would be queuing up to do trade deals with us. So far there are few potential trade deals on offer – Australia, Mexico and South Korea. They have been completely wrong-footed twice by the US with a firm rejection of the UK getting any trade deal with them any time soon. Now we have ‘hard Brexit’ looming. Just how the government is going to handle these complex negotiations is highly questionable.

The future of UK manufacturing and decent jobs hangs in the balance. Unite will not stand by and allow jobs, pay and conditions to be attacked by employers claiming Brexit as an excuse.

This article first appeared in Labour Briefing.

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Their Brexit or Ours?

4th November 2016

Their Brexit or Ours?

By Simon Hewitt

THE FIRST THING TO UNDERSTAND about the so-called ‘Brexit’ debate is that Brexit is not the issue. As with any fundamental shock to an economy, EU exit will represent an opportunity to renegotiate the contours of economic power within our society, the distribution of wealth between wages and profits and much else beside. In whose favour, if anyone’s, exit works will depend on the outcome of this. What we need to demand - and here the title of Unite’s new document is exactly right - is Brexit on our terms.

‘We’ here are the vast majority of the population - dependent on wages or benefits, sensitive to the price of goods in the shops, black and white, male and female, old and young. The battle between hard and soft approaches to Brexit, focusing on things like whether Britain remains in the single market, is not our battle. The current debate is a family row between different sections of British capital, those more or less dependent on EU markets. Which approach will work best for us will depend on the highly unpredictable circumstances of the global economy at the time of exit, and does not deserve campaigning energy. Nor should we tie ourselves in knots over the niceties of Article 50.

The left’s time and resources would be better spent at the present time on campaigns centred on clear demands around which we can unite people. Free movement and the right of non-UK nationals to remain here after exit must be in first place. Similarly the defence of employment rights is essential. We should also start talking about protecting people from price increases after exit, using the occasion to challenge the norms of the free market and so shift the parameters of the debate.

How successful the left is at doing this will determine whether the next couple of years sees a carnival of reaction or the opening up of new possibilities. At the moment, the first looks much more likely. This only reinforces the importance of our getting to grips with these issues and acting effectively now. The possibility of a good outcome remains. Let’s seize the agenda and fight for an outcome that benefits the vast majority of people, not just in Britain but across the world.

This article first appeared in Labour Briefing.

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Momentum’s Future

3rd November 2016

UNANIMOUS STATEMENT FROM MOMENTUM STEERING COMMITTEE

The Steering Committee recognises and regrets the discontent and frustration felt by Momentum members in recent days. Momentum’s democratic structures were always intended to develop. Unfortunately, this summer’s leadership election delayed that development, with all our energy being diverted into ensuring Jeremy Corbyn’s reelection.

The Committee recognises the need for a greater level of accountability and transparency from the leadership and administration of the organisation and will work to deliver that over the coming weeks.

Our path to democratisation, through our first National Conference in the new year, has not been sufficiently effectively communicated, leading, at times, to a breakdown in trust between different sections of our movement. There was not enough consultation and discussion with the diverse political and organisational traditions that exist in our movement. Pluralism is our strength, and all views must be properly engaged with.

After further discussion, the Steering Committee has agreed unanimously the following path for Momentum’s democratisation, which places unity, pluralism and member-control at its heart.

The National Committee, postponed from this Saturday, will take place on 3 December. We will ensure that this meeting is properly representative, including new elections for our liberation strands where necessary. A plan for ensuring this will be submitted and approved by the Steering Committee at the latest by 11 November.

A further National Committee meeting will be held in January before our Conference in February. Our Conference, involving all members of Momentum, groups and affiliated organisations, will decide our organisation’s long-term structure.

Taking into account the strong views on both sides of the OMOV (one member, one vote) vs. delegate for Conference votes, the Steering Committee has agreed on a recommendation to the National Committee of a suitable format. There will be both a physical delegates conference to thoroughly debate proposals submitted from the membership, and then OMOV voting on the proposals in the period after the conference. The details of this procedure will be determined over the coming weeks.

We know all levels of Momentum are committed to a truly inclusive and democratic structure and will make it succeed over the next few months.

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Still no Truth and no Justice for Orgreave Miners

2nd November 2016

Still no Truth and no Justice for Orgreave Miners

On October 31st Home Secretary Amber Rudd made the announcement that the government had no intention of holding an enquiry into the events at Orgreave in 1984 during the great miners’ strike. This was a shock, as the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign have been campaigning for years for the truth to be unearthed and Theresa May had strung them along with promises of an enquiry.

On 18th June 1984 around 5,000 miners sought to picket the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire. There they were set upon by more than 6,000 police from all around the country. They were funnelled into an enclosed area and attacked mercilessly, including by club-wielding coppers on horse. Many were badly injured and 95 charged with riot, which at that time carried a potential life sentence.

Rudd sneered that there was no need for an enquiry as nobody had died (no thanks to the efforts of the police) and no injustice had occurred. This is because when the court cases against the miners came up, the police stitch-up fell apart as the police shamelessly perjured themselves and fabricated evidence - with identical forms of words. No injustice occurred because the vindictiveness of the police was matched by their incompetence!

A while back the BBC got hold of hundreds of documents that had been mouldering in a garage.They revealed that dozens of officers - from different police forces, involved in separate arrests - had written the same phrases, again and again, virtually word-for-word.

This was the action by the same South Yorkshire police force who conducted a cover-up on their part in the deaths of 95 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough. When the enquiry was finally held after decades of campaigning it found that South Yorkshire police had conducted “malpractice with impunity”.

Officially the Tory government claimed not to be interfering in the 1984-85 miners’ strike. In fact Thatcher’s fingers were all over the police riot at Orgreave - literally. Paul Mason has discovered a memo by Tory John Redwood in the National Archive marked secret covered in her handwriting.
Here

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign have unearthed evidence from other documents showing the Thatcher was involved in efforts to smear the miners, direct police operations against them and fast track prosecutions. More documentary evidence incriminating the Tories still lies buried. The Campaign believed an enquiry could unearth it.

No wonder the present Tory government wants to bury this can of worms. Norman Tebbit, a member of the Tory government at the time, whined that an enquiry would have been “a stick with which to beat the Thatcher government” – including himself of course.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised that Labour will not let this go and a future Labour government would open an enquiry. He added that, “The determination of people to get justice never goes away and the government should remember that.”

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite added, “Amber Rudd’s shameful refusal to hold an inquiry into Orgreave smacks of a continued cover-up by the establishment. It will be a bitter blow to those who seek the truth and justice, to those to whom her government gave false hope.The brutal actions of South Yorkshire police at Orgreave, the subsequent cover-up and the injustice to ordinary working men and women cannot go unanswered.”

The mining communities and the rest of us are entitled to a full, independent enquiry. An enquiry into what happened at Orgreave would show the true face of the Tory government.

 

 

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Defend Jackie Walker! Defend Free Speech on Israel!

1st November 2016

Defend Jackie Walker! Defend Free Speech on Israel!

By Pete Firmin

FOR A SECOND TIME, JACKIE WALKER has been suspended from membership by the Labour Party, having been cleared of any offence the first time. Although the Party, as is its usual practice, has not notified her of the reason for her suspension, it is generally believed to arise from remarks she made (or is claimed to have made) at a training session at Labour Party Conference.

I was at that training session. Like several others involved in ‘Free Speech on Israel’, I was concerned that the Party was holding a training session on antisemitism, and even more that the session was to be led by a member of the Jewish Labour Movement.

The Chakrabarti Report came out against breaking anti-racist training down into separate “racisms”, and there was no suggestion that such training be given by the JLM, whose views are known to be contentious among many Jewish members of the Party. The only place such training has been suggested (other than by the JLM itself) is in the report by Baroness Royall into allegations of antisemitism in Oxford University Labour Club. She found none, but still proposed that there be training given by the JLM on antisemitism. That proposal has never been endorsed.

Jackie is being pilloried mainly for two things she said. She questioned why Holocaust Memorial Day could not include all holocausts - Jackie is well known for raising the fact that the death of millions of Africans in the slave trade goes unmarked. And - after several other anti-Zionist Jews had made the same point - she said that she had not heard a definition of antisemitism which she could work with ‘here’. She was not denying that a definition existed, but like others before her, was asking the trainer for his definition of antisemitism. Whether you agree with Jackie or not on these points is irrelevant. No one has yet shown them to be antisemitic.

At this point the real agenda of the Jewish Labour Movement became clear. Mike Katz, the JLM vice-chair giving the ‘training’, referred to the EUMC (European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia) definition. In fact, the report he was referring to, which attempts to equate criticism of Israel with antisemitism, was not drawn up by the EUMC and never adopted by it. It was largely drafted by the American Jewish Committee in opposition to the EUMC’s own definition of antisemitism. The EUMC merely put it on its website as a draft for consultation with a view to revising it. Its director said it “should be viewed as ‘work in progress’ … with a view to redrafting”.

This never happened and the EUMC’s successor body, the Fundamental Rights Agency, later dropped it as not useful. A version of this discredited EUMC definition has now been adopted by Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee in its report on antisemitism which the Committee wants written into law and into the constitution of political parties. Much could be written about problems with the Party’s training sessions, not just this one, but this stands out for its crassness, and for the fact that the JLM secretly recorded the whole session and then released the recording to the media. Not only does this contravene the law on data protection, but the Party has yet to make any public denunciation of the recording of what was its meeting.

Allied to this, the JLM is attempting to get the Party to adopt a rule change which effectively says that someone accused of antisemitism is automatically guilty, and claiming the findings of the McPherson report into the police investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence as their justification - although that report said all allegations should be fully investigated, not that they were necessarily proven. They hope to guilt-trip the Party into accepting their proposals with their claim that to do otherwise is to refuse to listen to the Jewish community, despite the fact that many Jews disagree with them.
. Subsequently, the JLM went on the attack. Never satisfied with Jackie’s previous acquittal by the Party and denouncing Chakrabarti for not having found that the Labour Party has a significant problem with antisemitism, they want scalps to advance their efforts at closing down debate on Israel/Palestine and undermining Corbyn. Tweets criticising Jackie from a Guardian journalist appeared almost immediately, briefed by “a senior member of Momentum”. These tweets have since disappeared. That day the Guardian online, followed immediately by the paper version, quoted a “spokesman from Momentum” announcing that a Steering Committee would be held the following Monday where Jackie Walker would be suspended! In an extraordinary move Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the TSSA, threatened to withdraw support and office facilities from Momentum if Jackie was not suspended as vice-chair of Momentum.

The Labour Party moved to suspend Jackie following the statements of the ‘leaked’ Momentum source and the intervention of Cortes. Despite the anonymous Momentum spokesman and the comments by Cortes, Momentum announced that Jackie was removed as vice-chair because of a “lack of confidence” and not because of any allegations of antisemitism. The Momentum Steering Committee has neither condemned Manuel’s blackmail, started an investigation into the leak nor launched a campaign against Jackie’s suspension by the Labour Party, despite claiming to oppose it.

This is part of a worrying trend in Momentum, reinforced by proposals in circulation on how a conference in February 2017 should be conducted only discussed by two members of the Steering Committee before being sent out, and with little time for Momentum groups to discuss before they need to be finalised. Some fear transparency and accountability could be as difficult to achieve in Momentum as in the Labour Party.

Apart from anything else, the Momentum decision on Jackie is shortsighted, apparently failing to realise that the JLM and their allies will be emboldened by their decision and on the search for others to attack. The only way to stop this advance is by a rigorous defence of Jackie Walker and rejection of the claim that criticism of Israel (including its right to exist as a Jewish state) is intrinsically antisemitic. Briefing readers should campaign for Jackie’s reinstatement by the Party and a calling to account of the Momentum Steering Committee, as many Momentum groups are already doing.

This article appeared in the November issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC.

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Officers Elected at 2016 LRC Conference

30th October 2016

Officers Elected at 2016 LRC Conference on 29th October 2016

President: John McDonnell
Chair: Matt Wrack
Vice Chairs: Norrette Moore, Claire Wadey
Political Secretary: Mick Brooks
Treasurer:  Alison McGarry
Membership Secretaries: Keith Henderson/Adam Thompson [Job share]
Administrator: Michael Calderbank
Web manager:  Seema Chandwani.
Local group Organisers: Patrick Hall/John Wiseman [Job share], Claire Wadey,

NEC
Graham Bash
Jan Davidson
Pete Firmin
Suzanne Gannon
Gary Heather
Patricia Jackson/Janet Johnson [J/S]
Mike Phipps
Mancyia Uddin

Union Section
Maria Exall
Ian Hodson / Peter John Fox

Equalities
Jackie Walker
Austin Harney/Louise Reece Jones [J/S]
Patrick Hall

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McDonnell Lashes Hammond and the Tories

25th October 2016

McDonnell Lashes Hammond and the Tories

An internal briefing document shows that the Government is “unlikely to bring deficit reduction entirely back on track”. It was mistakenly posted online.

The briefing, marked “sensitive: for internal use only”, was accidentally published on a government website and says that a continuing run of “disappointing data” is leading to “slow deficit reduction”. It was likely intended for ministers and Treasury civil servants, and it states that: “For the year to date the deficit is £2.3bn lower than last year; at a fall of 4.8%, well behind the 27.0% reduction forecast.”

Responding to the findings, McDonnell said:

“Philip Hammond today refused to mention the Government’s fiscal targets over the last six year, instead the Chancellor today referred vaguely to “fiscal discipline”. This internal Treasury document shows why.

“It refers to ‘a run of disappointing data’ and the unlikelihood of getting deficit reduction ‘back on track’, officially confirming the Tory failure on the economy.

“Now we’ve had it from the official civil servants it’s time the Tories came clean. They should drop the spin and admit the truth: they are failing on the public finances and working people are paying the price.”

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Walker vs McNicol Appeal

25th October 2016

Walker vs McNicol Appeal

By Jackie Walker

I am Jackie Walker, life-long anti-racist campaigner and socialist. I was suspended from the Labour Party in May of this year, amidst what appears to have been a breach of Data Protection law by Iain McNicol as General Secretary of the Labour Party.

This is my campaign to raise money in order to bring legal proceedings against Iain McNicol for this serious breach of data – briefing a major community media publication or other parties before informing me of my suspension from the party. This is not acceptable in his position as General Secretary of the Labour Party.

This case matters as my story is just one of many where Labour members have found themselves in a similar position. While this may not be the only case where a breach has occurred, as I was abroad at the time it may well be the most provable.

We invite anybody who has a personal interest in this case or the wider public to contribute.

Statement from Martin Howe - Solicitor (representing)

“Jackie Walker has faced a barrage of hurtful, threatening and nasty abuse since the private details of her investigation by the Labour Party over alleged anti-Semitism was leaked to the press before even she knew of her suspension by the Party.  This apparent breach of her private data has had a devastating impact on her public and private well-being and has led directly to her being pre-judged and unfairly cast as a racist before she was given any opportunity to tell her side of the story.  Data Protection laws are there to protect all of us and any breach is a very serious matter.”

About Jackie…
I am Jewish, my Russian born Jewish father and Jamaican born mother of Sephardi Jewish descent, were brought together in their shared political commitment to the Civil Rights movement of 1950s America. My mother brought me to England in the late fifties. My experience is not untypical of blacks of that generation. I have been a victim of violent, structural, and persistent racism ever since I arrived in this country in 1959. My personal response to this, my own everyday resistance, was not to become a particularist or a separatist but to be a universalist. I have been an anti-racist activist and campaigner all my life, a supporter of the rights of Palestinians, and have worked with disadvantaged families and communities nationally and internationally.
More about my suspension…

On 4th May I was suspended for the alleged (subsequently cleared) charge of antisemitism. As a Jewish person, whose partner is Jewish, this was heart-breaking. Since May I have continued to be targeted by the media, in print, online and in other places.  Currently I am suspended for questions asked at a training session on ‘Confronting Antisemitism & Engaging Jewish Voters’ at this year’s Labour Conference, after being unethically filmed by a Jewish Labour Movement campaigns officer who is also a Labour councillor. It seems this training was not a ‘safe space for all Jews’ by any means.
Consequences of my suspension…

As soon as the first article was released before my notification had even arrived, trolls circled for the kill, posting spooky blacked up faces (and worse) to my Facebook account. The community and national newspapers led the attacks, querying my Jewish identity (a racist move in itself), my work as an anti-racist activist and my political commitment.

When my suspension was lifted things got worse. Indignation at my alleged breach reached the heights of irony when Nigel Farage, anxious not to miss out on the fun being had by among others, the Spectator, a number of Labour MPs and officers of the Party, dedicated an article in Breitbart and a good dose of righteous indignation on national TV to publicly calling me out as a racist. The widespread hate campaign against me led to public abuse,

Strangers shouting ‘racist’ as I walked to the tube. With the murderous racist political discourse now taking the place of debate, I became conscious I was recognisable on the street.

As General Secretary, Iain McNicol is directly responsible for the damage caused to me, my family and friends by the decision of persons unknown - who briefed a major community publication in regards to my suspension and allegation, before the Labour Party had informed me.

Thank you for your support!
With thanks to Free Speech on Israel

About the claimant
I am a life-long anti-racist campaigner and socialist, a supporter of the rights of Palestinians, and have worked with disadvantaged families and communities nationally and internationally.

Pledge Now: https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/walker-vs-mcnicol/pledge/

From crowdjustice.org

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Resolution Booklet for 2016 Conference

25th October 2016

Here

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Labour’s Alternative to Tory Austerity

24th October 2016

Labour’s Alternative to Tory Austerity

By Barbara Humphries

The Labour Assembly against Austerity was founded in 2013, as part of the People’s Assembly against Austerity. In spite of support from the major trades unions and the late Tony Benn, it only had the support of a limited number of Labour MPs at the time. These of course included Jeremy Corbyn.  Labour was not a committed anti-austerity party then – Ed Miliband was telling the Conservative-Liberal coalition only that they were ‘cutting too far and too fast’, a fairly timid opposition.

So much has changed in three years, with its third conference, which was held at the weekend, attended by 300 people. We were addressed this time by members of the Shadow Cabinet, such as Diane Abbott and Cat Smith. They both outlined the catastrophic fall in living standards, which has taken place as a result of austerity, possibly the largest ever experienced by working people in this country. Cat Smith said that many local authorities were facing bankruptcy due to government cuts, and were going to be unable to meet their statutory duties. Diane said that the Tories were trying to find scapegoats for their failures, such as refugees and migrants. Kelvin Hopkins MP put this into historical perspective, when he said that the strategy of neo-liberalism, which has dominated politics since the 1970s, is now being challenged.

The conference was divided into workshops, on Corbynomics, tackling the housing crisis, inequality in austerity Britain, scapegoating migrants, health and education, and women and austerity. It was only possible to attend three of these, unfortunately!

I attended the discussion on Corbynomics, which was led by economist Michael Burke and former Labour MP Chris Williamson. Michael Burke said that the British economy was twice the size of what it was in the 1970s, but people were worse off, working longer hours for lower real wages. It was necessary to invest to grow the economy, taking advantage of low interest rates. This would generate the wealth needed to protect our public services. The British economy had a productivity problem, with much lower rates than in Germany for instance. The government’s plans for Brexit had confirmed that ‘project fear’ had been right. If access to the single market was not maintained we could expect to see falling GDP rates over the next 15 years – in other words we could be 7% poorer.

Chris Williamson pointed out how austerity had failed in its own terms. The government was nowhere near being able to pay off the national debt in spite of years of cuts. It was borrowing more than in 2010. The redistribution of wealth away from working people and their families was adding to the failure of the economy. Corporations were sitting on funds they were not investing. Tax cuts for the rich were pointless as they did not spend their money. In the 1970s the top rate of tax had been 83%.  A house building programme led by local authorities could help regenerate the economy, as well as solving the housing shortage.

In the session on inequality, speakers outlined the dire situation facing young people, whose expectations of education and employment rights were being diminished. Many did not have the opportunity to join a trades union, said Caroline Hill, chair of Young Labour. Chris Williamson said that by 2020 Britain faced becoming the most unequal society in the developed world, worse even than the US.

Speakers at the closing rally – Building for a Labour Victory, included shadow cabinet ministers Catherine West and John McDonnell.

For a full list of speakers,see

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Urgent: Keith Henderson Appeal.

20th October 2016

Urgent: Keith Henderson Appeal. 

First, Keith would like to thank everyone who has donated already to this appeal.

Keith Henderson was dismissed from his job as a regional organiser by the General, Municipal and Boilermakers (GMB) trade union for mounting a picket at the House of Commons on 30 November 2011 on behalf of the demand of a decent pension for GMB members. They were low-paid workers demanding their right to a decent pension. They had democratically decided on the action at their branch meeting.

On 2013 am Employment Tribunal judged that Keith had suffered unlawful direct discrimination by his employer, the GMB trade union, on the basis of his left wing democratic socialist beliefs. The GMB has successfully appealed against this decision, right up to the Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal handed down a judgement last week making an order for Keith to pay the Respondent (GMB Union) the sum of £12,000 within 21 days. This means the deadline is 1st November 2016.
Keith is a low paid worker on a zero hour contract and is worried that this will put him and his family at risk of losing their home.

The GMB has made it clear that they will enforce the order that was made for Keith to pay them £12,000.
This is now an urgent appeal, therefore, we are writing to you again to ask you if you could help Keith by making a donation to his appeal and/or asking your Labour Party or trade union branch to contribute to this appeal.
It is important that we stand by someone who has stood by our movement in solidarity. John McDonnell fully supports this appeal
Thank you for your assistance.

The Labour Representation Committee

Donate here:

Why did he lose? Keith adds

The main reason the appeal was dismissed is because the original Judgment of the Watford Employment Tribunal is so poorly written and some the findings of discriminatory treatment are contradictory findings of fact. Therefore, the Court of Appeal upheld the Judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

The Court of Appeal was of the opinion that the EAT Judge could make a substitute finding of fact without hearing any further evidence or referring the case back to the Watford Employment Tribunal to seek clarification on their Judgment.

My lawyer’s still believe this is wrong and the case should be referred back to the original Employment Tribunal Panel for clarification, but, it will cost too much money to pursue the case any further.

Socialism is still a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. This is a permanent gain for the labour movement from the hearing

Keith will down in the history books as the person who made the law to show discrimination against someone on grounds of left wing socialist beliefs is unlawful, that itself is a very important thing to have done and we achieve it. At paragraph 62 of the EAT judgment which still stands states

” At paragraph 48 it concluded that he is a ‘left-wing democratic socialist’ and held the beliefs identified. Moreover it found that “there were clear outward signs of those beliefs being manifested… particularly clear from the picketing incident…” The Tribunal concluded that left-wing democratic socialism is a protected belief for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and this conclusion is not challenged on this appeal.”

We now have socialism set as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 by the Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and now the Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice.

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What the Tories’ ‘Living Wage’ Means

18th October 2016

What the Tories’ ‘Living Wage’ Means

By Ian Hodson, National President BFAWU

THE TORIES’ ‘LIVING WAGE’ has been a disaster for many low paid workers. Figures from the Low Pay Commission suggest that nearly half of all low paid jobs are in two sectors - wholesale/retail and hotels/ restaurants. The introduction of the living wage has resulted in a further widening of inequality in workplaces, with workers below the age of 25 being paid less and, in many cases, other workers having their overtime, shift premium and bank holiday payments slashed in order to fund a paltry increase. As a result of this, our union has seen strikes across the 2 Sisters Food Group, with potentially more to come.

Our union has been trying to organise workers at Samworth Brothers - a company which recently hit the headlines for slashing their employees’ terms and conditions in order to make them fund the living wage themselves. When the workers there started to contact us for help and to join the BFAWU, they singled out the person they felt was responsible for organising the union at the site and sacked him. Kumaran Bose’s only crime was to speak out against the unfairness of the changes. The company then attempted to use ‘union-busting’ techniques to misinform, mislead and intimidate the rest of the staff.

In many cases, workers are looking at losses of between £1,500-£5,000 a year. But it’s not just food manufacturing that’s being hit, as others working in big DIY chain B&Q, the John Lewis Partnership (which includes Waitrose), Marks and Spencer, Tesco and coffee chain Cafe Nero have all slashed their already hard-pressed workers’ terms and conditions to fund this Tory gimmick. The living wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK. This is what is needed to be able to simply exist - not necessarily what is needed in order to live comfortably. In Britain, it has become acceptable for people to have to do two or three different jobs in order to put food on the table. A young woman I met who works in Poundland starts work at 7 am, finishes at 5 pm, and then does a cleaning job from 5.30 pm -7 pm before working in a restaurant for three hours or more, for six or sometimes seven days a week. That’s just so she can pay her rent, council tax and fuel bills. She still struggles to pay for transport to and from work. When I asked what she does away from work, she said that she sometimes gets a bottle of wine and has friends round, as going out is too expensive a ‘treat’. This is how many young workers are living today.

What has also become apparent is the link between low pay/job insecurity and mental health. Many young people are not able to earn enough in order to do the things that young people should be able to do, such as enjoying the odd night out and buying new clothes. This inequality and job insecurity is hamstringing their ability to make and build new relationships, develop social skills and grow their self esteem and confidence. It’s a damning indictment that workers and trade unions have to stick their heads above the parapet and be demonised, simply for making the call for a minimum wage of £10 an hour that doesn’t exclude young people and an end to the despicable exploitation of zero hours contracts.

Our Glasgow branch of BFAWU members from the fast-food industry organised a recruitment drive with some top bands, comedians and a personal message from Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. The event was very well attended and everyone signed up to the campaign for an end to the youth rate and the call for £10 an hour and trade unions rights. We will be holding more events organised by our members, building our union and giving a platform for working people to come together and build a fairer more inclusive society. The government-led agenda of slashing rights and restrictions in the workplace, allowing huge rent rises and ever spiralling transport and food costs, along with stagnating wages, isn’t an economic necessity. It’s a political choice. People are beginning to realise this and are finally waking up to the fact that many politicians are bankrolled by big business and have only their interests at heart. People are witnessing their public services being stripped to the bone and their terms and conditions being slashed while big corporations like Google, Apple and McDonald’s avoid tax and Mike Ashley and Philip Green avoid the dock. The ‘difficult decisions’ politicians make never affect these people.

Let’s put the blame where it belongs - not on migrants, the disabled and the unemployed. Let’s instead blame the politicians whose decisions are having a detrimental effect on those at the bottom end of the pay-scale and are allowing the real villains of the piece to get away with murder. Don’t be divided by the prejudices of the 1%. Our unity frightens the life out of them.

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For a Democratic Constitution for Momentum

14th October 2016

For a Democratic Constitution for Momentum

Momentum is potentially the most important left wing mass movement that has emerged in Britain for decades. Momentum emerged with the victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest in 2015, so it is a very new movement.

Its first Conference is to be held in February 2017. This Conference is vitally important for Momentum and the left in the Labour Party. It provides the golden opportunity to set up a democratic constitution and to spell out a socialist programme for the movement.

The Labour Party Socialist Network has affiliated to the LRC, which we welcome. The LPSN has published the first proposals for the forthcoming Momentum Conference  
here:

All LRC members active in Momentum should carefully consider their proposals to the Conference. These published proposals should kickstart these discussions, which are becoming urgent. The LPSN is quite right to point out that these are only preliminary proposals and that they do not mention the election and structure of Momentum’s National Committee.

Please note in particular that the closing date for drafts to be submitted to Momentum HQ is November 19th. Get cracking!

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Appeal for Miners’ Pension Scheme

11th October 2016

The UK miners pension scheme,
for Justice & Fair Play Association.

Hello Everyone. I hope you are all well.
Some of you I have not contacted for a while, my apologies, some of you might not even remember me, but all of you have helped me in the past, mostly with the Kent Miners Festival so many thanks for that. Today, I am calling on you all to help me again, please?
I am an active member of the UK Miners Pension Scheme, for Justice & Fair Play Association.
In short, our mining pension has been plundered to the sum of £8Billion +
Following a very successful 1st Rally in Liverpool last week, organised by our Campaign Leader, Les Moore and his steering group, where rousing speeches were made by many Miners Leaders from across the UK and emphatic supporting speeches by Tosh McDonald, ASLEF and Peter Stefanovic, London Lawyer (see links below) it is now time to elevate this campaign to the next level.
I have attached our petition form and a brief.
Our surviving miners, miners widows, children/grandchildren and our next generation, need your support.
Please support Les Moore and the UK Miners Pension Scheme, for Justice & Fair Play Association.
Please pass on this request to all of your contacts. Please get as many petition forms filled in as you possibly can. Please join our campaign.  The Kent Miners Festival will be relaunched next August Bank Holiday Monday at Betteshanger Country Park, more info will follow.
Regards
Gary

Get Petition Here:

Get Brief Here:

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John McDonnell: Appeal for Keith Henderson

11th October 2016

John McDonnell: Appeal for Keith Henderson

Dear Comrade,
Keith Henderson Appeal. 

I am writing to ask for your support for Keith Henderson.
Keith is a longstanding, loyal and active supporter of the Labour Representation Committee and Momentum. He has an excellent record of campaigning for the left in the Labour Party and the trade union movement.
On 2013 am Employment Tribunal judged that Keith had suffered unlawful direct discrimination by his employer, the GMB trade union, on the basis of his left wing democratic socialist beliefs.
The GMB successfully appealed this decision and the case is now back in court this week.
I have tried to secure a resolution to this dispute by agreement but with no success.
Keith is now facing a possible bill of up to £15,000 to cover legal costs.
Keith is a low paid worker and is worried that this will put him and his family at risk of losing their home.
I am writing to ask you if you could help Keith by making a donation to his appeal and/or asking your Labour Party or trade union branch to contribute to this appeal.
It is important that we stand by someone who has stood by our movement in solidarity.
Thank you for your assistance.
John McDonnell MP


Donations can be made through:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where is Theresa May taking the Tories?

8th October 2016

Where is Theresa May taking the Tories?

By Mick Brooks

Theresa May has vigorously worked to rebrand the Tory Party at their 2016 Conference. Why? The shock referendum ‘No’ vote has revealed that a majority in this country are deeply unhappy with the political establishment in Britain today. The referendum result in turn is an aftershock from the crash of 2008, which meant that living standards for most have stagnated or declined for a decade.

The Great Recession of 2008, and the resulting imposition of austerity, definitively discredited the ideology of neoliberalism, which had inspired both the Conservatives and New Labour from 1989 on. Both groups had failed utterly to articulate and defend the concerns of working people. In order to preserve the Tories’ future, May has dumped the out-of-touch millionaires of the Cameron-Osborne clique like last week’s rubbish.

In her Conference speeches May has continually referred to the problems of the working class. In doing so she has wrong-footed the New Labour ideologues, who were so afraid of mentioning ‘class’ that they talked instead of ‘hard-working families’.

So far all the pledges to improve the lot of workers have been so much hot air. We will watch the Brexit process attentively to make sure the government doesn’t try to water down or shred existing worker protection in EU legislation, as many Tories hoped to do. May has been talking the talk, but the Tory Party is unlikely to walk the walk.

What sort of Conservative Party has emerged from the Conference?

• May’s first attempt to stamp her identity on politics was to raise the issue of creating more grammar schools, of separating out ‘successes’ and a majority of ‘failures’ at the ripe old age of eleven.
• May’s stint at the Home Office was dominated by her obsession with migration (which she was spectacularly unsuccessful in curbing).  In 2013 she deployed ‘Go Home’ vans on our streets against illegal migrants, a clear incitement to racism.
• She was one of the main proponents of the Snoopers’ Charter, the Draft Communication Data Bill which would force internet service providers and mobile phone companies to keep records and hand them over to the government to trawl vast amounts of private data.
• For six years she sat in Cabinet in a government that was bleeding the NHS to death.
• There will be no change to proposed cuts in tax for the rich and big business.
• Austerity will continue, though Chancellor Philip Hammond has abandoned Osborne’s target to end the government deficit, since the government would never hit it anyway.

In short, though Thatcherism has been ‘dumped’, so far from capturing the middle ground, a May government represents a return to hard-line traditional social Conservatism and the support for a strong state as against the socially liberal, ideological free marketers like Cameron. For the time being she has won. The ‘Remain’ campaign kept their heads down at Conference. Cameron and Osborne were unpersoned, as in Orwell’s ‘1984’. The government is on course for a hard Brexit, though of course it could all unravel.

Ed Miliband was pilloried by David Cameron in 2013 of “wanting to live in a Marxist universe” for modest proposals to rein in the profit-gouging big six energy companies. Now May is making similar noises. John McDonnell was castigated for a reckless programme of ‘tax and spend’ for proposing to borrow at today’s exceptionally low interest rates to build up our infrastructure. Hammond now reluctantly suggests the same.

May’s rhetoric is important. She spoke at the Conference arguing that the state should intervene to “stand up FOR the weak and…up TO the powerful”. This has alarmed free market Tories and, more important, the big business sponsors who bankroll the Party. If serious she could be on a collision course with them. More likely, she will be forced to back down.

The Tories have interpreted the Brexit vote as a referendum for drastic curbs on migration. There is no evidence for this assertion. May seems to be cuddling up UKIP voters electorally, while UKIP in turn is trying to infiltrate the Tory party. Proposals to slim down overseas student quotas are an attempt to strangle one of our most successful export industries – higher education. Amber Rudd’s claim that “foreign workers are taking jobs British people could do” and demands for firms to list migrant workers are more attempts to fan the racist flame.

This hard line against migration is at odds with the posturing to be on the side of the working class. Migrants are part of the working class and we defend them as such. They are our people. May’s ploy is really to turn worker against worker. That is a campaign she must not be allowed to win.
The old neoliberal consensus shared by New Labour and the Cameron Tories is discredited. The emergence of Corbynism within the Labour Party shows the changing political agenda. Theresa May has adapted to the new political reality quite cleverly. Of course her Party’s claim to stand for the working class is utterly fraudulent.  Labour is the Party of the working class and proud of it.

Jeremy Corbyn summed it up in his Labour Conference speech: “Who seriously believes that the Tories could ever stand up to the privileged few? They are the party of the privileged few, funded by the privileged few, for the benefit of the privileged few.”

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If Jeremy wins

7th October 2016

If Jeremy wins

By John McDonnell

I am writing this before the result of the leadership election is announced and despite my adherence to historical materialism I am also deeply superstitious when it comes to predicting election results. Having lost in my home constituency of Hayes and Harlington by 54 votes in 1992 after four recounts I take no election for granted.

However I still believe in the need for planning for whatever outcome. So if Jeremy wins we need a clear plan of action to put in place the initiatives we will want to take and to address the immediate issues that will face us.

A first step will be to appoint a new ministerial team. The current Shadow Cabinet has proved to be effective, principled and loyal. There will be some vacancies to fill as some members move on to other positions and other elected roles. This will give people the opportunity to come forward and offer their services, including some who resigned earlier this year. This will enable Jeremy to have the Shadow Cabinet he has always aspired to that reflects the range of opinion in the Party and the PLP.

There are many PLP members in the second and third tier of the ministerial teams who didn’t resign and others who did. The message coming back during the summer is that most just want to get back to work developing Labour’s policies and continuing to oppose the Tories. That’s exactly what our party members and supporters want and the message that they have sent us all. As a result we have the potential for a strong, creative team emerging.

I believe that the leadership election was a classic attempt at a coup, promoted by a small group that from the outset could not come to terms with Jeremy’s election and would not accept his mandate and the wishes of our membership. The vast bulk of the PLP are not in that camp and I believe will work constructively with us if Jeremy is re-elected.

The interesting feature of the leadership election campaign and debates was that there didn’t seem to be any major policy differences between the candidates. The most common expression we heard was “I agree with Jeremy but…”. Apart from the issue of Trident the left agenda Jeremy had been putting forward was accepted by MPs campaigning for the other candidate. However if there is to be a comradely spirit of give and take after the leadership election the criticisms levelled at Jeremy and our administration have to be addressed.

The question of competence came up several times. That means we have to address this firmly. We have to demonstrate that we are a government in waiting. I have argued for some time that we should structure and resource our operation in opposition on the same lines as if we were in government now. That means appointing a shadow professional team to advise on, develop and implement the policies we wish to bring together to campaign on in opposition and prepare for enactment when we enter into government.

We should appoint a shadow team of civil service type Permanent Secretaries, each one attached to each Shadow Cabinet team - and alongside them establish for each department a shadow policy advisory group drawn from experts and practitioners in each of the policy fields.This will demonstrate in practical terms that we are ready to move into office at a moment’s notice.

To develop our ideas and policies we need to maintain the enthusiasm that has been generated by the leadership campaigns and immediately organise a series of policy conferences and seminars all round the country bringing together party members, trade unionists, policy experts, campaigning organisations and partners in civil society organisations. This will help feed in the vast expertise of our members and supporters into our policy making process.

We also need to establish the campaigning organisation that we need to win us the next election based on the social movement that is now the Labour Party. That means providing our members with the resources and developing their campaigning skills that will enable them to communicate our ideas. We need to create both a mass prominent involvement of party members in every aspect of community life and also create our own media via the new technology at our disposal.We have in prospect the most exciting period in our party’s recent history. Let’s seize it with both hands

John McDonnell is Shadow Chancellor, MP for Hayes and Harlington, Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and Chair of the Labour Representation Committee. He has been heavily involved in Labour Briefing since the early years.

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Jackie Walker: Resolution passed by the NC of the LRC on Oct 1st

5th October 2016

Jackie Walker: Resolution passed by the NC of the LRC on Oct 1st

This NC opposes the suspension of Jackie Walker from the Labour Party and her [proposed] removal as vice-chair of Momentum. 

In light of the Chakrabarti report findings, we question the Labour Party’s decision to have held this training session on antisemitism at Conference, and condemn the leaking of film footage from the event.

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Jackie Walker: letter to the ‘Guardian’

5th October 2016

Jackie Walker: letter to the ‘Guardian’, 5th October

As Jewish members and supporters of Momentum, we do not believe that what Jackie Walker said during a training event at Labour party conference was antisemitic (Walker stripped of Momentum role, 4 October). You report Jackie as saying that “she had not found a definition of antisemitism she could work with”. This is not surprising – there isn’t one. The Jewish Labour Movement, which ran the event, states that the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism’s working definition on antisemitism is the standard definition, despite the fact that its successor body, the Fundamental Rights Agency, has junked this definition, which equates criticism of the Israeli state with antisemitism. Jackie also stated that Holocaust Memorial Day should be more inclusive of other acts of genocide. Why is this antisemitic? It has always been a principle of the Zionist movement that the Nazi Holocaust was exclusive to the Jews. Yehuda Bauer, professor of Holocaust studies at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, has argued that “the Nazis only attempted to annihilate one people, the Jews”. According to Bauer, “the Holocaust is very much a unique case”.

Jackie’s arguments were made in good faith. They may be right or they may be wrong. What they are not is antisemitic. The decision of Momentum’s steering committee and its chair Jon Lansman to remove Jackie Walker as vice-chair is a betrayal of the trust of thousands of Momentum members. Momentum’s grassroots members overwhelmingly support Jackie.

Tony Greenstein
Professor Haim Bresheeth
Professor Emeritus Jonathan Rosenhead
Leon Rosselson
Ruth Appleton
Rica Bird
Mike Cushman
Dr Merav Devere
Mark Elf
Sylvia Finzi
Ken Fryde
Leah Levane
Claire Glasman
Selma James
Michael Kalmanovitz
Helen Marks
Elizabeth Morley
Diana Neslen
Ilan Pappe
Martin Parnell
Roland Rance
Dr Brian Robinson
Amanda Sebestyen
Glynn Secker
David Selzer
Sam Semoff
Sam Weinstein
Naomi Wimborne-Iddrissi

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Citizen: New Issue Out Now

4th October 2016

Citizen: New Issue Out Now

The latest, post-Conference, issue of CITIZEN, the journal of our Scottish sister organisation, the Campaign for Socialism is out now.

Read it online here

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NATIONAL CONFERENCE 2016: NC STATEMENT

3rd October 2016

NATIONAL CONFERENCE 2016: NC STATEMENT

TRANSFORMING OUR PARTY TO TRANSFORM OUR SOCIETY


Contents

1. The Domestic Situation
2-3. Corbyn – A victory for class politics
4-5. The Battle inside Labour

6-8. Achieving Our Goal

9-10. Fighting Tory Austerity

11-13. EU Exit, Wars and Immigration
14. Preparing for 2020, or 2017?
15-20. The Labour Party

• Fighting the Purge

• Rule changes

• Challenging Prejudice and Bigotry

• Re-selection

• Labour’s Policy Process

• The Trades Unions

21-24. Prospects for the Labour Left

• Momentum

• Labour Briefing


THE DOMESTIC SITUATION
1. The UK is in the midst of a wholly new political situation - one with profound opportunities but also risks for the left. The vote to leave the EU in June 2016 has seen the fall of the Cameron government and the end of Osborne, coupled with the installation of a more right-wing Conservative government under Theresa May, in a broader context of deepening social divisions, not least over the vote to leave the EU, and rising overt racism and intolerance.  Yet the ascendancy of the Tories is very fragile. Their parliamentary majority is small, they have the electoral support of less than a quarter of the electorate and they are riven by internal struggles, as shown by opposition within their own ranks to grammar schools. They can be beaten.

CORBYN – A VICTORY FOR CLASS POLITICS
2. The re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader is of profound significance. The campaign engaged the activity of tens of thousands of activists in a party whose membership has trebled since the 2015 General Election. The focus of Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents on personality rather than policy underlines the extent to which the battle over policy issues is being won. It is too unpopular for Labour’s right-wing to openly attack the ideas of Jeremy Corbyn; hence the emphasis on leadership qualities, the people who support him, their alleged tactics, etc.
3. Jeremy Corbyn’s defeat of his opponents was a victory for class politics against a project mounted by the right-wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party, their many friends in the media and millionaire donors. As Paul Mason wrote: “Ranged against us are all the people listed as donors to Progress, Saving Labour and Labour Tomorrow: the hedge funds, supermarket bosses and City types who thought the Labour Party was going to be a vehicle for a compassionate form of neoliberalism. What they’re facing is the permanent loss of the Labour Party as an institution supporting the economic system of the past 30 years. That’s why they’re fighting so hard to undermine us.” https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/find-each-other-and-act-dd566b812732#.9iz10j8n9

THE BATTLE INSIDE LABOUR
4. Now, for all the talk of new parties and factions, the diehard right-wing has nowhere to go: the old political centre has collapsed and few Labour members would follow them away from the Party. For the immediate future, Corbyn’s leadership, re-established with an increased majority, is unassailable.  But this will not be a permanent state of affairs. Despite the current talk of Party unity, Progress and Labour First supporters do not rule out further leadership challenges. The finely balanced NEC may continue to make life extremely difficult for the leadership.  The mixed results of Labour’s 2016 conference show that the left has yet to secure control of the Party and its decision-making bodies at a local and national level. There is a continuing guerrilla war by the right-wing and the bureaucracy against Jeremy Corbyn’s agenda. The sniping, purges and sabotage have not stopped.
5. At the time of writing we simply do not know how many of the ‘soft left’ in the PLP are prepared to accept the Corbyn agenda and work alongside Jeremy in Parliament – leaving the irreconcilable right-wing in permanent opposition to his leadership. Moreover, an early election could lead to a Labour defeat and the downfall of the entire project. The left has a unique opportunity – a real chance to make a difference – but one that may be short-lived. Given this, we must be clear about our objectives - and our priorities.

ACHIEVING OUR GOAL
6. The LRC wants to see a Corbyn-led Labour government committed to socialist policies.  This must be the goal of all our work.  The democratisation of the Labour Party, the building of a broad social movement and even the LRC itself are all necessary but, ultimately, secondary to the achievement of this overriding objective. The priority of the left over the next period must be to take the battle for policy out into society, to win the hearts and minds of voters, and create the majority which will elect a socialist Labour government.
7. The challenge in doing this is to recognise – as Labour’s right-wing fails or refuses to do – that the left is now the mainstream. What was once dismissable as “extreme” is today the new centre and our socialist ideas now speak, not just for the majority, but for the overwhelming majority – the 99% pitted against an out of touch elite. The left must seize this opportunity to address an audience far, far wider than it has reached since the Second World War, but it must find the language and the forms necessary to do so effectively. This is a project not just for the Labour Party but for a much broader movement behind and beyond Corbyn – trades unions, community organisations, students and other campaigns.
8. The trebling of Labour’s membership also promises new activism within the Party itself and the left will need to refine the ways it engages with those newly engaged with our ideas. To lay lasting foundations for a new kind of party it will be necessary to break with the routinism and defensiveness that has characterised much of the left’s activity in the Party in recent years.

FIGHTING TORY AUSTERITY
9. None of this activity takes place in a political vacuum. Opinion polls in current conditions are not especially trustworthy, but there is no doubt that Labour’s leadership contest has damaged its standing at a time of national crisis – when the Party should have been concentrating its fire on a Tory government which revealed itself to be utterly clueless in dealing with the vote to leave the EU. Labour’s internal conflicts contrast with the ruthless and undemocratic way the Conservative leadership vacancy was filled.  The details of austerity may have changed but Theresa May’s government can be expected to push forward an aggressively neoliberal agenda, as was made clear by the post-referendum 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.”  For all the talk of “compassionate Conservatism” the Tories continue with merciless divide and rule politics.  The left must counter this with class-based unity.
10. Clearly Labour and the left will continue to oppose austerity and defend from Tory attacks what remains of the public sector and our welfare state, including social housing, comprehensive education, the NHS and living wages. But if we are to create a social hegemony that can win a parliamentary majority and outlast Corbyn’s leadership, we shall need to move beyond our traditional comfort zone and articulate popular policies, including on energy and the environment, immigration, defence and foreign affairs. A credible and radical programme of economic investment and regeneration will be central to this.

EU EXIT, WARS and IMMIGRATION
11. Above all, it is clear that only the left has the ideas that can negotiate the most favourable terms for the UK’s exit from the EU. This includes a commitment to free movement and migrants’ rights, the protection of human and social rights, strong climate change and sustainable food targets and a rejection of unfair trade deals. Bilateral trade agreements, let alone service agreements, are highly likely to be on terms less favourable than the single market provides – hence the need to preserve access to this market.  We should be prepared to fight a General Election on the terms of EU exit.  These events are out of our hands and we are certainly not calling for a second referendum.  Until the Tory government has worked out a coherent strategy for the UK’s exit from the EU, all we can do is draw up basic red lines opposing any privatisation, and in defence of workers’ rights, environmental protection, consumer protection and human rights.
12. We know of no evidence that British or other military intervention has prevented the spread of terrorism, but it has contributed to the growing refugee crisis across Europe today.  The left must continue to demand an immediate end to Britain’s bombing of Syria and Iraq, and demand a comprehensive Europe-wide plan to provide humanitarian assistance to the increased number of refugees displaced by wars and bombing. 
13. To cut across the anti-immigrant mood which has been whipped up by the vote to leave the EU, and the consequent surge of violence and confidence for right-wing forces across British society, the left must show that wealth and power can be harnessed to build a decent future for all within a Europe inspired by Labour’s democratic and socialist values.  Immigrants, regardless of their country of origin, must not pay the price of Cameron’s referendum.  The left must defend the principle of the free movement of people across Europe, including the UK; and oppose prejudice, intolerance and hatred whenever and wherever we find it.

PREPARING FOR 2020, or 2017?
14. Given the proposed gerrymandered redrawing of constituency boundaries – which will, if implemented, remove a significant number of hitherto Labour seats – Labour must work with community groups, trades unions, tenants, and other campaigns, from the bottom up, on key fronts in the fight against the Tories. On some core issues there will be strong supporters among other progressive parties and informal non-electoral alliances against Tory policy may need to be considered in individual circumstances.  However, the left must always maintain a class basis to our politics and view any parliamentary tactics, including proposed alliances, through that prism.  The left can isolate and expose right-wing leadership elements in all parties and informally co-operate against the Tory government’s offensive without giving lasting credence to those whose ultimate aim is to undermine our politics.  By deciding our short-term priorities and working with all those prepared to fight for them we can marginalise even the super-funded right-wing in our Party.

THE LABOUR PARTY
Fighting the Purge

15. We must also work to make lasting democratic changes in Labour’s structures.  All paid officials of the Party must be properly accountable to the membership through appropriate governance arrangements, and the strongest principles of natural justice must be upheld when any disciplinary action is taken, either against individual members or supporters, or local units of the Party. The culture of the purge which has been overseen by Labour’s Compliance Unit must be ended and the principles of the Chakrabarti Report should be fully implemented.  All LRC members should actively campaign for this re-democratisation of the Labour Party, as outlined in the LRC’s statement of 1 September 2016 - http://l-r-c.org.uk/news/story/lrc-statement-against-the-membership-purge/. Various campaigns sprang-up in response to the purge.  It is to be hoped that these will combine fraternally into one national anti-purge campaign.

Rule changes
16. The left must organise to reverse the anti-democratic rule changes within the package of NEC-proposed measures successfully managed through 2016 Labour conference by the right-wing.  Attention has been focused on the new NEC representatives for Scottish and Welsh Labour, and clearly NEC representatives must be elected not appointed.  This must not overshadow another new Party rule which stipulates that Labour councillors cannot set an illegal budget and compels Labour councillors to vote for a legal budget.  Thus what was already general Party policy has been concreted into Labour’s rule book.  The purpose can only be to discipline councillors who speak out against cuts.  The left must organise to oppose and rescind this rule at the first opportunity.  Meanwhile, we must stand in solidarity with anti-cuts Labour councillors disciplined under it.

Challenging Prejudice and Bigotry
17. The left has led the way in implementing the Equalities Act.  We must do the same with implementing the Act’s protocols and improve upon putting these into practice.  We must be careful not to deny that people on the left can ever be guilty of abuse or downplay the vital and decisive importance of challenging sexism, homophobia, disabilism and all racism in the Labour Party, the labour movement and left organisations.  It is not enough to point out the hypocrisy of some on the right.  We need to pro-actively stand against prejudice and bigotry in our political organisations, wherever it comes from, just as we do in wider society.  Aided by their media friends, Labour’s right-wing is exploiting issues of prejudice, intolerance and hatred against the left.  The left must resist being divided either from each other or wider society, and persist in exposing the sickening and dangerous mis-use of hate issues as weapons against us.

Re-selection
18. While it is not necessarily appropriate for the Party leadership to lead a campaign for mandatory reselection of MPs, we do need to extend a debate about the accountability of our representatives at all levels of the Party and its affiliated bodies.  The selection of candidates is rightly a matter for members and supporters of the Party at local level.  No one has an automatic right to remain a Labour candidate in perpetuity.
 
Labour’s Policy Process
19. We also need to discuss and push for additional mechanisms to encourage popular participation in policy making. These could be citizens’ assemblies or Podemos-style online circles but, within Labour, these must always enhance member-led democracy and collective decision-making. The aim would be to ensure that not just the Leader but the whole leadership team has a mandate, as does every policy.  We should argue for local parties, both CLPs and branches, to play a key role in reaching out to ensure these frameworks have a real place in local political activity.

The Trades Unions
20. This process also needs to be extended into the affiliates. The support of many unions for Corbyn in his re-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 first 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 ongoing 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.

PROSPECTS FOR THE LABOUR LEFT
21. The organisational and political tasks facing the pro-Corbyn forces far outweigh the individual capacity of the left’s existing organisations, including the LRC.  No single group is in a position to undertake all of the necessary work in building influence at every level of the Labour Party and turning outwards to win a majority of the public to our side.  We must calibrate carefully what further tasks the LRC is best placed to undertake, neither setting our organisation unrealistic goals, nor hanging back where there is a need to address areas of serious deficiency

Momentum
22. The LRC was party to and welcomed the launch of Momentum.  We continue to help build it and politically shape its character.  Crucially, we must ensure and insist that it becomes a democratic membership body with union involvement.  Working alongside others we can provide political input to turn the slogans and sentiments, which have emerged as the main achievement of Corbyn’s transformation of Labour so far, into a programme of policies for electoral success and a change in government.  We want to share the political strengths of the LRC tradition with Momentum and encourage it in the most fruitful direction possible – outgoing political activity and effective, democratic organisation. 
23. Currently Momentum is a work in progress, with an uneven character depending on specific circumstances in each area.  Where existing LRC branches have a real presence in local political life we must maintain and build them; and, in areas where Momentum lacks serious organisation inside Labour Party structures, we should support Labour activists to develop new LRC branches to rectify this.  However, we recognise that Momentum remains the most promising framework for uniting the Labour left and articulating a more transparent approach to the construction of slates for leadership positions, such as the NEC. 

Labour Briefing
24. The publication of Labour Briefing as a regular source of information and analysis about developments in the movement is another instance where the LRC is helping to fill an obvious gap.  Briefing must increase its distribution and promotional networks to widen the readership of the journal, while also recognising the urgent need to continue to improve its online and social media presence.


National Committee of the Labour Representation Committee
October 2016

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Not Fighting the Cuts

3rd October 2016

Not Fighting the Cuts
Another Item from Labour’s Conference

By Claire Wadey

Of the NEC-proposed rule changes successfully managed through 2016 Labour conference by the right-wing, little attention has been given to a new Party rule which stipulates that:

“Members of the Labour group in administration must comply with the provisions of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 and subsequent revisions and shall not vote against or abstain on a vote in full council to set a legal budget proposed by the administration.

Members of the Labour group shall not support any proposal to set an illegal budget. Any councillor who votes against or abstains on a Labour group policy decision in this matter may face disciplinary action.”

Rather than to protect councillors from deselection, as the Huff Post headline suggests, the purpose of taking what has been a general policy and concreting it into Labour Party rules can only be to discipline councillors who speak out or take further action against cuts.

Instructing Labour representatives irrevocably to obey laws set by our opponents is not the work of the party of Lansbury, Poplar or Clay Cross. And where will this lead in the scenario that a racist, Brexit-inspired Government decrees that local authorities must police immigration status? Socialists and trades unionists know that our job is to fight for justice. Whether how we fight complies with laws made by our opponents is a purely tactical question.

The left must organise to oppose and rescind this rule at the first opportunity. Meanwhile, we must stand in solidarity with any anti-cuts Labour councillor disciplined under it.

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LP Conference Report

28th September 2016

LP Conference Report

By Claire Wadey

Labour Party conference was in uproar first thing this morning (Tuesday 27th September) following some good, old-fashioned management - one delegate called it “gerrymandering” by the platform, under the guidance of outgoing NEC Chair, USDAW’s Paddy Lillis.
The NEC has proposed various rule changes to conference, some of which are hotly contested as they tilt the balance on the incoming NEC, and the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) had decided to take them all in one vote. Very many delegates objected to this, reference back was moved on the CAC report (effectively rejecting the proposal) and the mover, Manuel Cortes of the TSSA, called for a card vote, as is the mover’s right under Labour’s established rules. Paddy Lillis repeated refused to put the CAC report to a card vote and went ahead with a vote on a show of hands - where it is impossible to tell the weight of affiliates’ votes - and then declared it carried.

Regardless of your views on the individual rule changes, this total disregard of Labour rules by the Chair of conference is shocking and throws into sharp relief the pressing need to restore Party democracy.

On the rule changes themselves, the NEC proposal for one extra NEC place to be filled each as the appointment of the leaders of Scottish and Welsh Labour, is undemocratic and unaccountable and will not guarantee Scottish or Welsh members a voice. Democracy is Scottish & Welsh Labour members, or even conferences, electing NEC representatives. It is not leader-appointed representatives.

Labour is a party of democracy, not patronage. We must do everything we can to ensure that Labour stays that way.

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Jeremy Corbyn - the reboot

19th September 2016

Mike Phipps (Brent Central CLP) and Sue Lukes (Islington North CLP) suggest five priorities for the Labour leader following his re-election

The 2016 campaign for re-election may have added new members to the Labour Party and helped popularise some of our key ideas, but ultimately it was always an unnecessary distraction. The reality is that Britain and all of its key political institutions are in deep crisis. The priority now for the Corbyn leadership is to address the country, not the Party. We must now prepare to win the next General Election.

To do this, firstly, a broad political alliance needs to be constructed. Current electoral geography is against us, in particular the dominance of the SNP in Scotland, but also the expected loss of safe Labour seats resulting from the government’s gerrymandered redrawing of constituency boundaries. Labour is going to need to work with community groups, trade unions, tenants, single issue campaigns and other parties from the bottom up on key fronts - health, education, civil liberties, housing, migrant rights.

Party patriotism cannot be allowed to get in the way of building the broadest possible unity around campaigns on these issues, on many of which there will be stronger supporters among Greens, Nationalists and even some Lib Dems than among some of Labour’s right wing. Concrete alliances on issues where we have agreement can be forged, as some members of the Shadow Cabinet are already doing. These will be popular and can isolate and expose those right wing leadership elements in all parties that reject mutual co-operation against the Tory government’s offensive.

Two institutional flaws in Britain’s inadequate democracy need to be put back on the table. The idea that this Tory government be allowed to claim a democratic mandate on just 36% of those who voted in the 2015 General Election is a scandal. To say that Labour too got away with this in the past is not good enough. The fact that Caroline Lucas, the newly elected joint leader of the Greens, has made proportional representation a “red line” in any discussion with Labour on electoral pacts makes this debate an unavoidable one for us.

Likewise, if real progress is to be made in Scotland and Wales, this could mean strategic alliances with nationalist forces if that’s what it takes to get Labour into government. For that to happen, Labour will have to stop playing “catch-up” on the national question and commit to the broadest possible devolution across the UK’s regions.

Our second big challenge: whatever problems the Party continues to face at national level, we must build on our base in local government and work with councillors to help define the agenda they need to deliver services. The work that Jon Trickett did on regional devolution in the 2015 leadership election can be taken forward, drawing on some of the new mayors, for example in Bristol, and mayoral candidates, in the North West, who are not hostile to Corbyn’s leadership.

Thirdly, we need to introduce some mechanisms for popular consultation on policy. These could be citizens’ assemblies or Podemos-style online circles to refine and develop policy ideas. While this is a radical departure in Labour policymaking, it fits in with Jeremy Corbyn’s own proposals, announced in August, to lead a digital revolution and strengthen online democracy. The aim would be to ensure that not just the leader but every policy has a mandate. Local party branches could play a key role in reaching out to ensure these frameworks have a real place in local political activity.

Fourthly, we have to have a clear idea of what kind of Brexit we want. By prioritising the removal of Jeremy Corbyn, many on Labour’s right who claim the Party did too little in the referendum campaign squandered a real opportunity to take the offensive on this issue against a Tory government that was - is - clueless on how to deal with Brexit. We must provide leadership on this: full integration into the single market must be a central goal. Bilateral trade agreements, let alone service agreements, are just unserious - the government has so little expertise on this, it is hiring expensive outside consultants to do the work. Seeking bilateral solutions can lead only to a further enfeebling of Britain’s declining industrial base. We also need to resolutely defend EU social entitlements and European Convention human rights for all citizens and residents from impending Tory attack.

Fifthly, our Party is in a mess at all levels, with the exception of the grassroots where the phenomenal increase in membership, trebling what it was 18 months ago, poses new challenges. We have to continue to encourage and listen to these new members if we are to retain them and make them active ingredients in a Labour victory. To this end, the full-time apparatus must be reshaped to ensure it is at the service of the members, helping them to play a full role in the Party, rather than playing a factional role, even excluding members from activity, as we have seen in recent months.

Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election is also an opportunity to strengthen the team around the leadership. Last year’s unexpected win necessitated a hasty pulling together from scratch of a new team, with all its inevitable teething troubles. This year’s long-expected victory should provide the impetus to recruit some of the finest experts who want to serve. We need a focused, efficient operation, outward-looking and responsive to the electorate, strategic in its vision and clear and concise in its core messages.

What about the MPs? The war in the PLP has to end. It’s appalling that Labour MPs who claim to care so passionately about EU membership have dragged us into these internal squabbles at a time of national crisis. The plotting has to stop. But if we get all these other things right, then probably some who resigned from Shadow Cabinet positions, as well as some who didn’t come on board before, will be prepared to work with us. If we are magnanimous in victory and reach out to them, then the diehards whose sole aim is to bring down Jeremy Corbyn can be isolated from the broader middle ground of the PLP.

Nothing succeeds like success. If we can go beyond the internal contest to address the concerns and win the trust of voters who didn’t vote Labour last time and now feel betrayed by the other parties, we can change the political landscape.

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Ronnie Draper Reinstated

11th September 2016

Ronnie Draper Reinstated

The General Secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union has been reinstated after trumped up charges to suspend him from the Labour Party and not allow him to vote in the leadership election were dropped.

The BFAWU issued this statement:

The BFAWU Executive Council welcomes the reversal of the Labour Party NEC’s decision to suspend our General Secretary, Ronnie Draper.
Although we are pleased that common sense has prevailed in this instance, we are extremely disappointed that the decision to suspend Ronnie was taken in the first place and we are very concerned that thousands of rank and file members have been refused the right to take part in this unnecessary leadership election. We demand that all paid up Labour Party members and supporters be reinstated and that this undemocratic and ideological purge is brought to an end. We call on the Parliamentary Labour Party and those who have wilfully and selfishly created chaos to end this civil war now and get on with the job of standing up for our communities, who desperately need a strong and united Labour Party. The focus should be on stopping this Conservative Government led by an unelected Prime Minister. The energy and passion should be directed at preventing Theresa May from her agenda of furthering inequality, not at vain, ego-driven, internal squabbles.

It is time for the Labour Party to start doing what it has always done best: standing up for workers; supporting the vulnerable and those in need; and helping to build a fairer, more equal society that gives hope and opportunity for all, not just the wealthy few.

Ian Hodson
National President on behalf of the Executive Council

Ronnie Draper is speaking at the LRC Fringe Meeting at TUC Conference on Monday 12th September. Don’t miss it

Other ‘Purge’ News

Pamela Fitzpatrick, a Labour councillor in Harrow, has also been reinstated after ridiculous and unsubstantiated allegations that she had been ‘rude’ at a meeting.

This shows that it pays to protest if you are suspended, and get as many people as possible to support your protest.

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Let’s get Corbyn Back in to Get the Tories Out

10th September 2016

Let’s get Corbyn Back in to Get the Tories Out
LRC Meeting at TUC Conference

Friends’ Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AF
Monday 12 September 2016
6pm refreshments,  meeting at 6.30pm. Get there early

Speakers: John McDonnell, Jennie Formby, Manuel Cortes, Ronnie Draper, Jackie Walker, Tosh McDonald, Matt Wrack, and others

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Come to LRC Conference!

8th September 2016

Come to LRC Conference!

Transforming our Party to Transform our Society

Discussion will be on four main Themes:
• Peace
• Equality
• Socialism
• Environment

When: Saturday 29th October 10 am to 4 pm
Where: Student Central (formerly ULU), Malet St, London WC1

Invited Speakers include: John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry, Matt Wrack, Ronnie Draper, Jackie Walker, Manuel Cortes

To book your place, go to the ‘shop’ section of this webite

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Suggested Contemporary Resolution

5th September 2016

Suggested Contemporary Resolution

For a Democratic, Pluralist Labour Party

Conference notes the numerous expulsions and suspensions of party members carried out from late August. At time of writing the number is unknown, but on 20 August the Daily Telegraph reported “thousands of Labour members… could be suspended or expelled”.

Conference notes that this includes many longstanding members, among them Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union general secretary Ronnie Draper.

We further note that at almost exactly the same time it was revealed that David Sainsbury gave £2m to the Lib Dems last year!

Conference believes that anyone willing to genuinely support Labour should be welcome, subject to our rules. Previous left-wing political activity should be of no relevance; neither should membership or support of particular organisations or currents.

However our rules change, we need to ensure they are carried out in a spirit consistent with a democratic culture. As the Chakrabarti report argues, “the Labour Party should seek to uphold the strongest principles of natural justice”, “due process” and “proportionality”.

Expulsion and suspensions should not be used as a factional weapon. Everyone should be properly informed of the charges against them in writing – not via the press! – and given a hearing before any penalty, and there should be a proper appeals system.

Conference resolves
to call on all party officials and bodies to act in the spirit of this motion.
to call on the NEC to carry out the Chakrabarti report’s recommendations.
that all those expelled or suspended who have been denied an appeal should be given one.

(249 words)
There are also suggested contemporary resolutions on the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy website:
• Against austerity policies
• For a campaign on rail
• Against the Housing and Planning Act
• Against feudal housing tenure
• In defence of the NHS

See:

The deadline for receipt of contemporary motions is Thursday 15 September 2016 at 12 noon.

While CLP meetings are suspended until the conclusion of the Leadership election, the NEC has agreed that a meeting may be held to consider essential Annual Conference business.

The title has a maximum of 10 words and the motion a maximum of 250 words

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Time to Rebuild the Organisation of Labour Women from the Grassroots

3rd September 2016

Time to Rebuild the Organisation of Labour Women from the Grassroots

by Maria Exall

With our current standing in the polls the Labour Party needs urgently to review how it appeals to women voters. Whilst such a review should include structural changes such as gender quotas for Party positions including the Shadow Cabinet and the ‘great offices of state’, a standalone position of Minister for Women and Equalities, and of course All Women Shortlists for selection (all matters raised in the recently released Labour Women’s Network survey) the most significant progressive change that could be implemented this year is a renewed and revitalised Labour Women’s Conference.

At present the Labour Women’s Conference takes place on the day before Labour’s Annual Conference. It has proved very popular with regular attendance of up to a thousand CLP and trade union women. But important democratic reforms are necessary to make the Conference a proper voice for women in CLPs and working women organised in trade unions. These include the Conference becoming a decision making event, and the opportunity for the policy decided there to become Party policy via Annual Conference Resolutions and via the National Policy Forum.

Firstly it is necessary then for Women’s Conference to have the opportunity to debate and vote on motions from CLP’s, Women’s Forums and affiliated organisations. The decision making at the Labour Women’s Conference should mirror the federal nature of the sovereign decision making at Annual Party Conference with 50% CLPs and 50% affiliated organisations. This would ensure the issues we debate reflect the interests and concerns of working class women in our local communities and in our workplaces.

Secondly the decisions of the Labour Women’s Conference should be the way for CLP and trade union women to directly input into Party decision making. We want policy to come from the bottom up – not top down. However well intentioned the leadership or senior women members of the Party are, the best way to reach out to women Labour voters and potential Labour women voters is policy developed from the experience of working class women up and down the country. It is worth remembering that key progressive policies including the National Minimum Wage actually originated from Labour’s Women’s organisation- our demand became Party policy and was then implemented by a Labour Government.

A renewed national Labour Women’s Conference could help revitalise existing local Women’s Forums and encourage the creation of many more. These could form the focus of grassroots campaigning by CLP’s on women’s issues on a borough wide or city basis. We should consider the formation of women’s structures at regional level which can involve regional trade union women’s organisations and women’s officers from across local CLPs as well as other Labour women activists.

We need to retain all the best features of the current annual Women’s Conference but improve its democracy and accountability. Whilst informal session and invited speakers should be a part of a vibrant annual women’s event the arrangements for the Conference must be accountable, and the opportunity to make policy is necessary and vital. We should make sure that Women’s Conference is inclusive and shows the diversity of Labour women’s experience whatever our race, sexuality, disability, or age.

The current Women’s Conference arrangements are haphazard.  There is no transparent decision making on the speakers invited or the themes of the sessions.  There is no provision for any delegate based decision making. The only current output from the Conference is a short report is made at Annual Conference on the proceedings of the Women’s Conference from the day before – but who makes it and what they say is not subject to any real accountability. Reform is well overdue.

Labour women active in the workplace through their trade unions, and women in local parties active in their local communities, want their say. We want the opportunity to come together and decide the priorities for women in the Party’s political agenda, and to debate the positive effect for women of Labour’s policies. To develop our democracy we need a proper structure for the Women’s Conference – one which allows the voice of women at the grassroots to be heard. It is time to rebuild the organisation of Labour Women from the bottom up.

Thisd srticle originally appeared in Left Futures.

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LRC Statement against the Membership Purge

1st September 2016

LRC Statement against the Membership Purge

The Labour Representation Committee (LRC) strongly opposes the current widespread suspension of Labour members and the disqualification of members and supporters from voting in the Party’s leadership contest.  As Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP has noted, this smacks of a “rigged purge”.
The suspensions are disproportionately affecting known Corbyn supporters.  So zealous are those working in Labour’s shadowy Compliance Unit that those suspended include leading labour movement figures such as Ronnie Draper, General Secretary of BFAWU – a Labour affiliate.  Jeremy Corbyn has rightly called for “the strongest principles of natural justice” to be implemented.  These are being systematically ignored at present.

The LRC demands that these basic principles be extended to Labour members and supporters:
• To be told in clear and specific terms why they are suspended, or why their voting rights have been withdrawn.
• Notification of the name of their accuser, unless there is a real risk to safety.
• Setting a strict time limit on all provisional suspensions; e.g. thirty days.
• Allowing appeals against suspensions, making the procedure clear and publicly available.
• Extending the right of appeal to registered supporters who have had their right to vote withdrawn.
• Setting a strict time limit on the retrospective consideration of ‘offences’;  e.g. when specifying particular terms of so-called abuse , Labour members’ past actions should only be reviewed for a maximum of two years.
• Prompt and comprehensive filling of reports with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) where the Party’s internal disciplinary procedures are reported in the media without the approval of the member or supporter, and full co-operation with any investigation by the ICO.  The Labour Party must take responsibility for any breaches of the Data Protection Act by its employees and act appropriately.

Suspensions are being carried out in the name of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), but this is a fiction.  The NEC is in no position to investigate or even review the cases of potentially hundreds or thousands of suspended Labour members.  It is not in continuous session and last met in July. We believe the unelected General Secretary, Iain McNicol, and the unelected Compliance Unit are responsible for the present outrages.  On taking office, priorities for the newly-elected NEC must be to:
• Hold an inquiry into Iain McNicol’s role in relation to the suspensions of Labour members and supporters
• Propose rule changes to make the Labour Party’s General Secretary an elected post.

Disciplinary procedures within the Labour Party must be changed to allow due process and implementation of the principles of natural justice.  Shami Chakrabarti was shocked at the arbitrary and unjust nature of the current process.  The broad principles of her 2016 Report must be implemented:
• A legally qualified panel should be available to advise the Labour Party on the justice of disciplinary procedures.
• The National Constitutional Committee (NCC) should take over the handling of disciplinary procedures from the NEC. The NCC should be bound by strict rules.
• The power of interim suspensions should be removed from officials acting on the instructions of Labour’s General Secretary.
• No section of the Labour Party should be kept under special measures for more than six months without a review.  Suspension must not be allowed to be repeatedly rolled over.

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Jeremy Corbyn against the Purge

30th August 2016

Jeremy against the Purge

By Claire Wadey

Good on Jeremy Corbyn, the first Labour Leader for many years to stand-up for members’ rights against the Party’s bureaucracy. As has been reported today, Jeremy has written to Labour’s General Secretary Iain McNicol, concerned that: “the online and press speculation around the reasons for suspension and how these are being dealt with are raising concerns about whether members are being treated in a consistent and proportionate manner… This in turn is damaging the reputation of the Labour Party.”

Jeremy wants Labour’s bureaucracy to bring forward the Chakrabarti Report recommendations which demand “the strongest principles of natural justice” including giving members a timeline in which their case will be dealt with, offering the identity of any complainant and telling members why they are being suspended. Demands which Labour members, with support from the LRC, CLPD and other campaigning groups of members, have been calling for over many years.

His democratic credentials are yet another reason to support Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader.

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Chakrabarti and the Purge

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 :
here

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:

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Suspended Ronnie Draper at LRC TUC Fringe Meeting

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.

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Purge of Potential Voters in Leadership Election

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
here:

 

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What does the Labour Leadership Election tell us?

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

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Book Launch

18th August 2016

Book Launch

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.

Register to be sure of a place. You can do this through the Bookmarks website, linked below.
Facebook event page:
Bookmarks website events Page:

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Sounds familiar? Labour in the 1980s

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’.”

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The Leadership Election and Party Democracy

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.


Here’s a petition to sign

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Solidarity with the Homerton Workers

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.”

Read the story here

Three things you can do to help these workers
1. Send a message of support to homertonunison@gmail.com.
2. Like and leave a solidarity comment
3. Share with others and encourage them to offer support.

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Here’s why not to vote Owen Smith

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.

 


   

 

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Stop Hinkley: How to Waste £Billions

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.

Stop Hinkley
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.

 

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Affiliated Supporters: Register Now to Vote for Jeremy Corbyn!

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 :

here

• 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.

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Supporting Nominations for Jeremy Corbyn

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,
see here

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Ann Black and the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance Slate for NEC

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. 

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Where we are

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.

See it here

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.

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March for Unity – 1976 and 2016

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.

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Support Centre Left Grassroots Alliance

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

Download pdf leaflet here

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Registered Supporters: Urgent!  Sign Up Now!

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!

Click here for more information:

You can also call 0345 092 2299.

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The political opinions of big-pharma lobbyist Owen Smith

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.

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Leadership Contest: Right Wing Dirty Tricks

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.

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Labour’s NEC: Coup Attempt Latest

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

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The Coronation of Theresa May

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.

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Labour Briefing Readers’ Meeting

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?

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Angela Eagle’s voting record

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.

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Challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership

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,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chilcot: The Oil Vultures

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.

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LRC Statement: Whose Party is this Anyway?

4th July 2016

LRC STATEMENT

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
. http://l-r-c.org.uk/…/lrc-statement-whose-party-is-this-an…/
Please email and tweet your Labour MP t ‪#‎BackCorbyn‬.

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John McDonnell on the leadership battle

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.

Solidarity

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Ten good things about the Chakrabarti Report

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.”

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Hundreds of councillors sign pro-Corbyn letter

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

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Young Labour Statement On Jeremy Corbyn

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.

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A political leader who cannot be bought

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.

Ian Hodson
National President

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Model Motion for GC meetings - #KeepCorbyn

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

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Is your MP backing Corbyn?

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 info@l-r-c.org.uk

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

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LRC Statement: Whose Party is this Anyway?

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.

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BackCorbyn

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.

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