26th May 2016
Time to change the agenda
Editorial of June Labour Briefing
BBC BOSSES BREATHED A SIGH OF RELIEF that the government’s long-awaited White Paper on the Corporation’s future did not compromise its political independence as much as they had feared. But perhaps it didn’t have to. Long-term pressure on the BBC has already yielded results – government ministers are interviewed four times as often as their shadow counterparts and complaints are widespread about an anti-Corbyn bias since his election as leader last year.
Over 35,000 people signed an online petition in less than a week calling for the dismissal of BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg for her blatant anti-Labour line. But due to a handful of unrepresentative sexist comments, this was portrayed as a ‘hate campaign’ mounted by Corbyn supporters and 38 Degrees took down the petition. So legitimate concerns about bias from a publicly funded broadcaster turn into a debate about left wing sexism. The same card was played when local activists‘targeted’ Stella Creasey MP for voting to bomb Syria last December: they were demonised as ‘anti-woman’.
A more pernicious extension of this toxic tactic underpins many of the allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Legitimate outrage at Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, or even discussing the history of the Zionist movement, is being portrayed as Labour having ‘a problem with Jews’. A score of mostly spurious suspensions have followed and, unsurprisingly, Jeremy Corbyn’s enemies, inside the Party and out, have missed no opportunity to lay the blame at his door – even if the vast majority of so-called incidents occurred before he was leader.
The commission to look into anti-Semitism and racism under Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti is to be welcomed. It’s unlikely that Labour’s internal investigation into the allegations will find much substance to most of them. Meanwhile left wing activists, some of them Jewish themselves, are suspended for months at a time and their names are given by party officials to the media. Yet in many cases they have no notice of why they have been banned. While they try to defend their reputations against trial by media, our movement is forced to respond to an agenda dictated by its enemies, and sustained by those within who see an opportunity to damage the Corbyn leadership, now their dire predictions about May’s election results have proved false.
A recent YouGov poll found only 5% of respondents believed Labour had a particular anti-Semitism problem, while nearly half felt the crisis had been ‘created by the press and Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents to attack him’. Labour members have a proud record of fighting racism, in contrast to the Tories who continuously stoke fears about immigrants, ran a frankly racist and Islamophobic campaign in the London mayoral race and have tried, with breathtaking hypocrisy, to make political capital out of all this.
Where does it stop? The purge is now being extended to exclude Marxists who are being informed they ‘do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party’. Some believe this is all part of a counter-attack by Labour’s apparatus to witch-hunt the left in the Party ahead of a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
We need to resist these attacks but we also need to re-set the agenda onto the issues we should be talking about. There is now an open crisis within the Tory Party, with each side in the EU referendum debate accusing the other of lying and endangering British security. The divisions are paralysing government – the Queen’s Speech was an unprecedentedly threadbare rehash of old announcements and in any case will be irrelevant if Cameron is forced out this summer. Meanwhile the government has been forced to execute a score of U-turns – on child refugees, forced academisation of schools and the hated Trade Union Bill, even amending its own Queen‘s Speech motion ahead of a threatened defeat on TTIP.
With Labour’s Bitterite tendency temporarily silenced by creditable election results and a Mirror poll showing Jeremy Corbyn still enjoys the support of two thirds of members, now is the time to set out a positive alternative to this bankrupt government. We have a unique opportunity to open an agenda for an alternative economic policy that cracks down on tax avoidance, embraces fully-funded public services, sustainable industry, job creation, truly affordable housing and a range of popular policies that can reach voters who became disaffected in the New Labour years. Do not be deterred by their attempts to divert us from this goal!
Labour Briefing is the Magazine of the LRC
26th May 2016
Call It By Its Name: Afriphobia Is Racism Against African People
An Open Letter To Labour Party’s Chakrabarti Inquiry From A Group Of Africans Concerned About The Inquiry’s Focus & Language
We the undersigned note that the Labour Party has set up the Chakrabarti Inquiry (Inquiry) to investigate “Anti-Semitism and other forms of racism”.
We are of the view that the terms of reference: ‘Anti-Semitism and other forms of Racism’ are unwittingly discriminatory, as racism against Jewish people is set apart from racism and prejudice against other peoples, particularly Africans (Afriphobia) and Muslims (Islamophobia).
Even though there is only one race, the human race, a more appropriate title could be on the lines of ‘Investigation into Racism, which includes Afriphobia, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia’.
We note that over the years there have been allegations of racism towards Africans (Africans from the continent of Africa and Africans from the Diaspora) and Asians within and outside the Labour Party, but no independent public inquiry has been set up to investigate these allegations.
Undoubtedly the Jewish holocaust (properly known among the Jewish people as Shoah) is a terrible blight on human history, but we must remember that there were holocausts before and after. The Congolese holocaust in the name of King Leopold II, is said to have claimed 10 million lives.
The holocaust perpetrated on Africans, also properly known by African people by the Kiswahili words Maafa or Maangamizi, led to the deaths of tens of millions of Africans in holding cells on the continent of Africa, in the process of capture and kidnappings, in the Middle Passage, in enslavement and plantation systems in the Americas, Caribbean, and in the German-governed death camps in Namibia.
The survivors of the Middle Passage suffered unimaginable torture and hardships at the hands of enslavers and plantation owners, and their descendants continue to suffer acute deprivation and are the object of discrimination and racism in America and in the UK, where they are under- represented at every level of public life, including in the Labour Party, and over-represented on all indices of social deprivation and criminalisation.
It is for this reason that pan-African Reparation organisations continue to work on repairing the damage to Africans and Africa caused by the trafficking of enslaved Africans, colonialism and neo colonialism. This damage is still being experienced by people of African heritage today.
How is it that commentators can freely blame Africans for the atrocities they suffered with little understanding of the context of the Maangamizi or Maafa without any public uproar? In addition, the school curriculum does not currently teach sufficiently about non-European civilisations, the contributions of non-Europeans to world civilisation or the uncomfortable truths about the British Empire. This in itself contributes to the structural racism which is in society in general, including the Labour Party, where ignorance of the history of the peoples of Africa pervades.
Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are recognised as challenges that need to be addressed, but Afriphobia is so ingrained in our society that it is not acknowledged as an issue that needs to be challenged, or called by its specific name.
People of African heritage can be vilified and even blamed for the genocide they suffered without any public inquiry or calls for a public inquiry. However when comments perceived to be negative are made about Zionism or the state of Israel, this is perceived at times to be anti-Semitic by those who do not like the comments, whether or not these claims are supported by evidence. This often results in suspensions from the Party and other unfair censures.
We reject the idea that opposition to Zionism or the Israeli government is necessarily anti-Semitism.
The United Nations has declared 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent, and has recognised that Africans represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected.
We therefore call upon the Inquiry to investigate and accord equal importance to Afriphobia and its manifestations within and outside the Labour Party.
We also ask the Inquiry not to unwittingly promote discrimination by the exclusion of the Afriphobia* terminology, and advocate the use of the AAEM (African, Asian, Ethnic Minority) terminology instead of BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) which excludes the African identity.
* We define Afriphobia as: The prejudice or discrimination against; fear, hatred, or bigotry towards people of African heritage and things African.
Awula Serwah, Africans For JC Values
Kwaku, RE:IMI (Race Equality: In Music industry)
Dr KB Asante
Adekayode Oke (AFRIKAATUUU Convention for Afrikan Networking (AFRIKAATUUU-CAFRINET), Nigeria)
Adwoa Oforiwaa Adu (All-Afrikan Students Union Link in Europe (AASULE))
Althea Gordon-Davidson (Pan-Afrikan Community Educational Services (PACES))
Beverley Wong (Momentum Black ConneXions)
Boucka Stephane Koffi (Pan-Afrikan Fora International Support Coordinating Council (PAFISCC))
Chris Jones (Africans For JC Values)
Esther Stanford-Xosei (Global Afrikan Peoples Parliament)
Darla Migan (Vanderbilt University)
Delia Mattis (Momentum member)
Dr Barryl Biekman (Europe-Wide NGO Consultative Council on Afrikan Reparations (ENGOCCAR), Holland)
Enigye Adjoa Ayebea, Grassroots All-Afrikan Women’s Internationalist Solidarity Sisterhood (GAAWISS), Ghana)
Explo Nani-Kofi (Kilombo Centre for Citizens’ Rights and African Self-Determination, Ghana)
Glenroy watson (RMT London Transport Regional Council, Global Afrikan Congressuk)
Jackie Walker (Momentum, South Thanet Labour Party (suspended), LRC Executive and Labour Briefing Editorial Board)
Kofi Mawuli Klu (Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe)
Kwame Adofo Sampong (Trade Unions and the Pan-Afrikan Community Link (TUPACOL))
Kwame Dede Akuamoah (NKRUMAHBUSUAFO Kwame Nkrumah Convention Family Movement, Ghana)
Linda Bellos (Linda Bellos Associates)
Maatyo Dede Azu (ADZEWAGBETO Pan-Afrikan Women’s Liberation Union (ADZEWAGBETO-PAWLU), Ghana)
Mawuse Yao Agorkor (VAZOBA Afrika and Friends Networking Open Forum (VAZOBA-AFNOF), Ghana)
Nana Asante (Momentum)
Omowale Ru-Pert-em-Hru (Pan-Afrikan Society Community Forum)
Nehemie Zeguen Toure (Mouvement Social Panafricain pour le Development Integral (MSPDI), Cote d’Ivoire)
Ngoma ‘Silver’ Bishop (Bema Arts)
Opeyemi Araromi (Pan-African Congresses-United Kingdom Organising Committee (PACs-UKOC))
Professor Lewis Gordon (University of Connecticut, Rhodes University, Birkbeck School of Law, Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès)
Professor Paget Henry (Brown University)
Prophet Kweku & Jendayi Serwah (Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March Committee (AEDRMC))
Samantha Asumadu (Media Diversified)
Shemi Leira (Momentum Black ConneXions)
Simeon Stanford (Afrikan Reparations Transnational Community of Practice (ARTCoP))
Sumana Nandi (Grassroots Women’s Internationalist Solidarity Action Network (GWISAN), India)
Toyin Agbetu (Ligali Organisation)
Marlene Ellis (Momentum Black ConneXions)
Wedam Abassey (Forum of Nkrumaist Thought and Action (FONTA), Ghana)
Xolanyo Yawa Gbafa (EDIKANFO Pan-Afrikan Youth and Students Internationalist Link (EDIKANFO-PAYSIL), Ghana)
13th May 2016
Momentum defends Jackie Walker
A statement from Momentum on the suspension of Jackie Walker from the Labour Party:
Momentum condemns the suspension of Jackie Walker, Vice Chair of our Steering Committee, from the Labour Party on 4 May. Jackie, a black activist of Jewish heritage and lifelong anti-racist campaigner and trainer, was suspended by the party for alleged antisemitism following an article that appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, which quotes statements she made on Facebook discussing her family history.
We are extremely concerned by the lack of due process in this case, and the failure to apply the principles of natural justice. Journalists were briefed about Jackie’s suspension by party staff before she had been informed. Indeed, she is still yet to receive any formal notification of either her suspension, the basis for it, or a timetable for her hearing. As the suspension was not briefed to the press as ‘without prejudice’, it has been interpreted by some as a presumption of guilt before any process has taken place.
Momentum calls for the immediate lifting of her suspension and for new rules to be put in place by the party to govern the handling - and the press briefing - of sensitive disciplinary matters, and for all suspensions to be agreed in advance by NEC members after the person concerned has the right to make representations.
Momentum unambiguously condemns antisemitism and welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s launch of an expert-led inquiry.
We hope that this inquiry is the start of a process of investigating how all forms of racism and oppression that exist in society replicate themselves in any way within the Labour Party. For the labour movement to fight racism and oppression effectively, we need comradely self-criticism, education, and awareness raising of these complex issues. We pledge that Momentum will play a productive role in this process.
12th May 2016
Defend Jackie Walker
Suggested model motion for Party branches:
This branch wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemns all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. We further wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemn the suspension by the Labour Party of Thanet Labour Party member Jackie Walker for alleged anti-Semitism.
Jackie Walker is a longstanding member of the Labour Party, and was Vice-Chair of Thanet South Labour Party until her suspension. She played a key role in helping to organise the defeat of Nigel Farage, when he contested Thanet South in the general election 2015. She is an active anti-racism campaigner and a founding member of the Kent Anti-Racism Network. KARN has been organising for refugees stuck in the camps of Calais, and mobilising opposition to openly fascist groups seeking to stoke anti-migrant sentiment and community divisions in Dover.
We welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s initiative to hold a full inquiry into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Any member who has made actually anti-Semitic comments should face immediate suspension pending an investigation. But care must be taken not to suspend members on a spurious basis, and that is what Jackie Walker’s suspension clearly is. Those who have been suspended on a spurious basis should be immediately reinstated.
Such suspensions are also a clear invitation to the Party’s enemies to use our procedures to damage our Party and its effective operation.
We call upon the National Executive Committee to lift the suspension immediately, to reinstate Jackie Walker and to apologise to her.
Jackie Walker has been suspended following a complaint to the Labour Party from the Jewish Chronicle, reporting that an organisation called the Israel Advocacy Movement had uncovered remarks on Facebook made by her earlier this year. Those remarks, in the context of a discussion about the Holocaust and human rights today, were “millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews. Many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice.” Jackie Walker is of mixed African-Caribbean and Jewish heritage.
11th May 2016
Victory against the Blacklist
Eight major construction firms have been forced by the courts to pay £50 million in compensation to workers who suffered for years, sometimes decades, on account of a secret blacklist illegally kept against them. The blacklist was organised by an organisation called the Consulting Association. Apart from inaccurate and second hand reports from spies in the trade union movement, it is quite clear that the employers were using information that could only have come from the police and security services.
Blacklist Support Group campaign secretary Dave Smith said the High Court action was, a “Historic victory for the trade union movement against the vicious face of free-market capitalism.”
“These fat cats and their friends in the police took food off of our children’s table, causing years of family hardship.
“We take this personally and a few quid and a mealy-mouthed apology is a long way from justice.
“We intend to continue our fight to expose those who orchestrated and colluded with blacklisting. In any civilised society, the wretches would be in jail by now.”
Unite’s Len McCluskey added that the massive scale of the agreed damages showed, “The gravity of the misdeeds” of these major construction companies:
“The sums to be paid out go a considerable way to acknowledge the hurt, suffering and loss of income our members and their families have been through over many years,”
“This settlement is a clear statement on behalf of the trade union movement that never again can such nefarious activities be allowed to happen against decent working people trying to earn an honest living in a tough industry.”
This is a big breakthrough, but it is not the end of the blacklisted workers’ fight for justice.
Support the Blacklist Support Group.
11th May 2016
Nominate Rhea Wolfson for constituency section of Labour’s National Executive Committee
Since his suspension, Ken Livingstone is ineligible to stand for the NEC.
The Centre Left Grassroots Alliance is nominating Rhea Wolfson in his stead.
Alongside Ann Black, Christine Shawcroft, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams,and Peter Willsman, the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance is now supporting Rhea Wolfson for the NEC. Rhea is former President of Oxford University Jewish Society; former Secretary of London Young Labour; current Women’s Officer for Scottish Young Labour; current Co-op Party rep on UK Young Labour National Committee; and a full-time branch secretary for GMB Scotland. Please urge your CLP to nominate Rhea by 24 June.
Rhea writes: Britain needs a Labour Party that can deliver a confident and credible democratic socialist agenda; an alternative to the inequality of conservatism and the inertia of nationalism - with fairness and equality at its heart.
Labour must be the party that stands against austerity to improve the lives of working people across borders. Our party needs to be strong and united, with all levels of the party working in a transparent and tolerant manner.
I will work to empower members, local parties, and activists; to fight for a more democratic party that can deliver change - and ultimately, deliver victory.
Rhea is a member of Eastwood CLP, L1205274.
11th May 2016
Reinstate Jackie Walker Latest
if you want to keep up with what’s happening on the campaign to reinstate Jackie Walker ‘like’ this new page which has been set up to campaign against her suspension and the accusation of anti-Semitism to undermine the leadership of the Labour Party
9th May 2016
Scottish Labour’s Disaster:
Hamstrung between Scottish Nationalism and Unionism
By Laura Dover
It was shortly after midnight on the 6 May when Thomas Docherty, ex-Blairite MP and list candidate for Scottish Labour, appeared on the BBC’s Scottish Parliament election coverage to articulate what had gone so badly wrong for Scottish Labour in this latest round of Holyrood elections. Unsurprisingly for someone of Docherty’s political persuasion, he considered the 2016 Scottish Labour manifesto an act of “self-immolation for dummies”. In his view, it signified a lurch to the left akin to the 1983 manifesto and moderate, middle Scotland rejected this loony leftism.
Perhaps Docherty regretted commenting at this early stage of the game, as several hours later he failed to be elected to Parliament and achieved little other than inciting anger among the membership. However, his comments set the tone for the Labour right’s reaction to the results. John McTernan’s post-election column in the Scotsman asserted that voters had “punished” Scottish Labour for Kezia Dugdale’s equivocation on the union and attempting to outflank the SNP on the left with an anti-Trident renewal policy and proposals for an increase in the basic rate of income tax. McTernan cites Dumbarton, one of the few constituencies held by Labour, as evidence of why a Unionist and ‘centre-ground’ position would have delivered - incumbent Jackie Baillie held the seat by a margin of 109 votes, narrowly beating the SNP, and had made her pro-Trident stance a focal point of her campaign.
This is an argument that doesn’t hold up very well across the 72 other constituencies. In Dumbarton there was a swing of 3.8% from Labour to other parties, with the Conservatives and SNP increasing their vote share by 2.6% and 1.6% respectively. This was relatively low, with constituencies in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and West Lothian seeing a swing of approximately 12% from Labour to the Conservatives in traditional Labour heartlands. It appears Baillie was able to achieve the status of the Unionist candidate due to being an established incumbent, but that across the board voters primarily motivated by preserving the union unsurprisingly trusted a British nationalist Tory Party over a social democratic option. Further, at the 2015 General Election, the SNP stood on a unilateralist platform and gained the closely corresponding Westminster constituency of West Dunbartonshire from Labour with a majority of over 14,000 votes. At this time, Scottish Labour were yet to pass policy opposing the renewal of Trident, suggesting that retention of the ‘nuclear deterrent’ is not the magic bullet in this constituency.
The Scottish Labour left’s reaction to the results so far has been to lay the blame on a toxic combination of separatism and unionism. Scottish Labour, caught between two competing forms of nationalism, has been unable to make its economic arguments heard. While these were undoubtedly significant factors, an argument which begins and ends with nationalism is equally as myopic as the right’s insistence that we veered too far to the left for Scotland’s liking. After all, political parties fight elections but do not do so in circumstances of their own making. Neither side in this argument has been willing to acknowledge that this election is yet another milestone in Scottish Labour’s decades of decline. Another opportunity to mitigate damage and rebuild has been thrown away.
It is now vital for the future of Scottish Labour that it acknowledges the fundamental lack of trust in Labour which developed in Scotland throughout the New Labour years. The analysis of why this came about is well worn. Labour’s working class core voters feeling increasingly alienated from a party that embraced big business and the Murdoch-owned media and find it harder to distinguish between Labour and the Conservatives in terms of their image and policies. Evidently, the rot set in for Scottish Labour long before its catastrophic result on 5 May. The intervening five years have been characterised by continuing failure to move on from the early years of New Labour.
Indyref, and Labour’s complicity in Better Together served as confirmation to much of Scottish Labour’s core vote that it was more closely aligned to unionism and the Tories than the interests of working class people. Labour’s own No campaign only appeared to grow legs in the final stages of indyref, by which point it was entirely too late. The party had already espoused Tory arguments for remaining in the UK, thereby shattering its already deteriorating image and credibility. With the exception of a brief, embarrassing flirtation with Saltire-waving under Jim Murphy, Labour’s involvement in Better Together encouraged British nationalist tendencies in voters to secure a No vote. It is unsurprising that those voters were subsequently drawn to the Conservative and Unionist Party, rather than the “unionism lite” on offer from Labour. The likes of McTernan are keen to lament that Scottish Labour is being “punished” by voters, but this implicit self-pity conveniently overlooks the role that the Party played in resurrecting unionism as a significant political factor in Scottish politics.
This repeated inability to assess honestly and admit its past mistakes pervaded Scottish Labour’s 2016 Holyrood campaign. The manifesto was broadly social democratic - certainly to the left of the SNP - and contained a number of strong left wing policies, but these were at odds with flagship policies such as championing home ownership via subsidising mortgages. The result was a lack of a coherent socialist vision, and a party that didn’t even seem particularly convinced by its own policies. A quick scan of Scottish Labour’s list candidates revealed a great number of familiar faces, many of whom were too tainted by New Labour to ever convince voters to “take a fresh look at us” as the party’s campaign materials exhorted them to. The same old guard that refuses to examine its past is preventing Scottish Labour from rehabilitating its image and culture and from developing a coherent ideology and stance on the constitution. The failure of Dugdale and others to accept that the constitutional debate is now firmly embedded in the Scottish political landscape did not help matters. Until UK and Scottish Labour can develop a constitutional approach which is ideologically placed to develop arguments for redistributing wealth and power, it will be hamstrung between Scottish nationalism and Unionism.
Hopefully this latest defeat was sufficiently crushing to prompt an influx of fresh faces and the development of a coherent socialist ideology and constitutional position. This is a crucial moment for the Party to begin to rid itself of the remnants of Blairism that paralyse it, and to acknowledge its role in creating external forces rather than retreating into the comforting rhetoric of “flags beat facts”. Judging by the diatribes of McTernan and Docherty, some sections of the Party have failed to learn anything from this decade of decline, and this continued failure to learn - not unilateralism or raising income tax - is “self-immolation for dummies”.
8th May 2016
Another reason to be cheerful
…. Marvin Rees elected as Bristol Mayor
By Tony Benson
Bristol went to the polls on Thursday the 5 May to vote for a Mayor. Incumbent George Ferguson was standing again and so was Labour’s Marvin Rees. Turn out in 2012 was low 27.92% this time it was 44.87%. In working class areas turn-outs in 2012 were low whilst more affluent areas were high. The conclusion highlighted polarised class divisions. A low turn with a privileged few voted for so-called independent Ferguson complete with his gimmicky red trousers.
Turn the clock forward to Thursday 5 2016 the results were a lot different. Overall high turn-out 44.87% and from the breakdown of stats higher turns in working class areas. Four years of Ferguson with his frivolous vanity projects such as support for big business friendly ventures one being the Bristol Arena. In the meantime, the housing crisis has been as bad for ordinary people as it has been elsewhere, educational results in Bristol schools are drifting into being indifferent and public transport is extremely poor.
With a political backdrop of the right-wing press aided and abetted by embittered Blairites baying for Jeremy Corbyn it really shows that when organising in working class areas and getting the vote out means Labour can and does well. Bristol mainly consists of suburban sprawl with a mix of well-to-do areas, poor inner-city areas, working class council estates and “middle England” areas. It is exactly the kind of place that right wing pundits sneeringly say Labour cannot succeed in. Except we now can.
7th May 2016
Local Elections in England
- Reasons to be Cheerful
By Michael Calderbank
Even before the polls had closed, the attacks from Corbyn’s opponents had started. It didn’t matter what the actual results were - the narrative had been set already. Lord Kinnock, that fount of wisdom on electoral success, opined in Prospect magazine that the leadership’s policies “are an impediment to getting the kind of support we need”. Neil Coyle MP pre-briefed BBC Newsnight that Labour was “moving further away” from election victory under 2020 under Corbyn.
The polling community, influenced by assumptions of the Westminster bubble, projected substantial losses for Labour. Peter Kellner spoke of a “consensus” that 150-200 seats would be lost. Corbyn’s Labour would lose control of a slew of Councils it previously ran. The party’s internal number-cruncher Greg Cook was issuing similar warnings. They had already concluded that Labour had retreated into its ideological comfort zone, and decided to play primarily to its core vote - with adverse consequences in the key electoral battlegrounds in the South and East. When the results came through, this pre-cooked story did not hold up. The losses on the scale predicted simply failed to materialise.
The verdict passed by voters across the country was substantially more positive. Far from having collapsed, Labour’s national vote share was up on that achieved by Ed Miliband in last year’s general election. Of course further progress still has to be made if we are to regain power in 2020. But the direction is generally positive, even despite the slew of media attacks, and dissent from the inside the PLP. Given that the corresponding local election results in 2011 represented a high water mark - as voters had their first opportunity to vote against the Coalition parties - it was always going to be difficult to make substantial advances this time round. MPs arguing Labour needed to be making hundreds of gains were setting a deliberate impossible target to paint a false picture of failure. They key is to be more successful than before in terms of sustaining forward momentum throughout the government’s term and building a platform for a General Election victory.
In actuality, Labour had a good deal to celebrate in England. London elected Sadiq Khan, with 57% of first and second preference votes. The election of a Muslim mayor with such a handsome majority represented a clear rejection of the vile racist smear campaign run by allies of Lynton Crosby for the Tories. The GLA results saw Labour take the constituency seat of Merton and Wandsworth, previously a Tory stronghold. No adverse effect there.
Elsewhere, too, Labour performed better than expect outside its heartlands, retaining control of councils such as Southampton, Crawley, Hastings, Exeter, Nuneaton, and Redditch. In Worcester, previously regarded as a “barometer” seat in Middle England, Labour made gains to deny the Tories a majority.
One of the few disappointing results in England was Labour’s loss of Dudley Council to No Overall Control. Here the local Labour MP, a loud-mouthed enemy of the Corbyn leadership blind to the consequences of his own irresponsible behaviour, had never ceased to publicly attack his own party leadership and undermine the credibility of his own party’s policies. Dudley Labour Councillors can feel rightly aggrieved that their MP has undermined their own electoral fortunes. This demonstrates the need for the party to unite ensure that hostile elements within the PLP are confronted, isolated and effectively silenced going forward.
Of course there are no grounds for complacency. Holding our ground was merely the first prerequisite for extending our support, and picking up the momentum we’ll need as we approach 2020 - or earlier, if the civil war in the Tories escalates in the wake of the EU referendum. If Labour fails to recover some ground in Scotland, the gains needed in England to take back power will be all the greater. Yet the Corbyn leadership has proved popular in large parts of the country, including those marginals we’ll need to win back. The Cassandras have been left looking foolish. It’s now time for all sections of the party to unite behind our leader. Those giving ammunition to our opponents must be told that they will not be allowed to wreck our chances going forward.
6th May 2016
Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party?
The Editor of Labour Briefing Speaks Out
By Graham Bash
As a Jew (all my life) and Labour Party member (48 years) I am outraged at the way allegations of anti-Semitism have been used to silence legitimate criticism of Israel and undermine Jeremy Corbyn as my party’s leader.
I know what anti-Semitism is. I was brought up to learn how the Jewish East End fought with the dockers against Mosley’s fascists at Cable Street. I was told at school how it was a pity that Hitler didn’t finish off the job of murdering all Jews. And very quickly I learned what it was like to be made to feel an outsider. It was hardly surprising that I started going on anti-fascist demos in my late teens and very soon afterwards joined the Labour Party, which I remain a member of to this day.
I know what anti-Semitism is. Apart from socialist, anti-racist politics, my other love is football. How many times as a West Ham fan have I had to endure my own team’s fans singing “I never felt more like gassing the Jews”? Or being attacked by my team’s own fans for daring to put up a ‘West Ham fans United Against Racism’ banner at Upton Park.
I know what anti-Semitism is – I have a sensitive ear for anti-Semitic comments - and, without doubt, the place I have encountered it least is within the Labour Party. In 48 years, I have encountered anti-Semitism once, perhaps twice, compared to countless episodes outside.
Of course I have encountered deep antipathy to Israel, and its murderous actions to deny justice for Palestinians, but that is what I would expect from a democratic anti-racist party – and these are views shared by me and many other peace loving socialist Jews.
Throughout most of my years in the party, I have worked closely with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. They have always been the first to fight injustice and inequality and from them there has never been a hint of anti-Semitism.
What is happening in the party today is an attempt to cynically use rare examples, and usually false allegations, of anti-Semitism as part of a McCarthyite witchhunt against supporters of Jeremy. As if to prove the point, the latest victim is my own partner and anti-racist campaigner, Jackie Walker, of mixed heritage (Afro- Caribbean and Jewish), outrageously suspended from the Labour Party, simply for telling the truth that her Jewish ancestors were involved in financing the Slave Trade, that the African holocaust was even worse than the Jewish holocaust, and that anti-Semitism is not a major problem in Corbyn’s Labour Party.
I am proud of the heritage and family traditions that helped my development on the road to being an anti-racist, international socialist. This current witchhunt will not deflect me, and countless thousands like me, from the struggle for justice worldwide and for a socialist Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
* * * * *
‘I am writing to you in protest against the outrageous suspension of Jackie Walker from the Labour Party on spurious grounds of anti-Semitism. I call on you to reconsider this action and lift the suspension immediately’.
Please e-mail your protest today to the General Secretary, Iain McNicol
and copy to Ann Black firstname.lastname@example.org (Chair of NEC Disputes Panel) and Jim Kennedy Jim.Kennedy@unitetheunion.org(Chair of NEC Organisation
Labour Briefing is the Magazine of the LRC
5th May 2016
Jackie Walker Suspended: Protest!
Please take a few moments today to protest at the suspension from the Labour Party of Jackie Walker, a leading member of Momentum and the Labour Representation Committee
LRC statement on Jackie Walker
The LRC wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemns all forms of racism. We further wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemn the suspension by the Labour Party of Jackie Walker, Vice Chair of the National Steering Committee of Momentum, a leading activist in Thanet Momentum, and an Executive Committee member of the LRC for alleged anti-Semitism.
The Party suspended Ms Walker after the Jewish Chronicle brought comments made by her in Facebook posts earlier this year to the attention of Party officials.
In her comments, Ms Walker, a black activist of Jewish heritage, said that “millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews.”
“Many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice,” she said.
The Jewish Chronicle itself revealed that “her comments were uncovered by the Israel Advocacy Movement, which works to counter hostility to Israel in Britain.”
A picture emerges of a leading pro-Israeli government organisation trawling through the social media posts of Labour Party activists to brand ideas anti-Semitic when they are clearly not. The targeting of Ms Walker for remarks that have no connection to anti-Semitism suggests that senior labour movement figures, such as Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, were right when they argued that largely baseless allegations of anti-Semitism are being used by opponents to undermine and destabilise Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
The LRC welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s initiative to hold a full enquiry into anti-Semitism in the Party. Any member who actually has made anti-Semitic comments must face immediate suspension pending an investigation. But there must be an immediate end to the suspension of members on a spurious basis, into which category Jackie Walker’s suspension clearly falls.
Jackie Walker is a long-standing anti-racism campaigner who helped organise the defeat of UKIP leader Nigel Farage in Thanet at the 2015 election. Her suspension must be lifted immediately. We call on all labour movement activists to contact Labour Party Head Office to demand this.
Please send your message of protest to the General Secretary, Iain McNicol: email@example.com
and copy to
Ann Black: firstname.lastname@example.org (Chair of NEC Disputes Panel)
& Jim Kennedy: Jim.Kennedy@unitetheunion.org (Chair of NEC Organisation Committee).
Jackie Walker on Anti-semitism
On anti-Semitism in the Labour Party ......
Yes, for many outside of politics the debate on anti-semitism may be irrelevant. But those of us ‘inside’ with the knowledge and interest around the terms of the debate have the responsibility of taking into account the importance, the power of words and the way apparently small changes of vocabulary and emphasis can transform the terms of a struggle. This is a lesson black peoples have understood since slavery.
The statement by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty on anti-semitism concedes to, and is complicit in, a lie; that there is a major problem with anti-semitism in the Labour Party. Like everywhere in British society the Labour Party fails, and fails too often, to be what we would want it to be - a bastion of socialism and internationalism.
The chief victims of those failures however are not people of Jewish descent, but are the many other representatives of other minorities underrepresented in the structures of the LP and discriminated against inside and outside the LP economically, culturally and politically in contemporary Britain. To sign this statement concedes too much and reflects a lack of appreciation not just of Labour Party history and politics, but of the history of minorities in British society.
3rd May 2016
Dodgy Dave has given us an enormous opportunity
John McDonnell‘s column in the May 2016 issue of Labour Briefing.
Labour Briefing is the magazine of the LRC.
It’s seven years on since the bankers and speculators who had turned our economy into a casino, brought about the credit crunch and the worst recession since the great depression of the 1930s.
It’s been seven years of crushing austerity. The cuts in benefits and wage freezes have forced a million a year to queue at food banks to feed their families. The statistics of disabled people assessed for work who have died before being able to take up work, are shocking. The stress caused by the pressure being placed upon those out of work and in work has produced reported incidence of mental health conditions at epidemic proportions.
Independent analysis confirms that 80% of the cuts have fallen on women. The distributional analysis recently published by the Women’s Budget Group has demonstrated that if you calculate the total impact of tax cuts, cuts in benefits and the withdrawal of services, it is the poorest decile in our society that have been hit the hardest and the richest that have born the least burden of austerity.
Two groups in particular have been hit hard – young women with young children, and older, retired women. Older women suffer so much because in our culture caring responsibilities still fall the most on women. As caring services are cut the burden has fallen upon older women.
From the outset the left argued that austerity was a political choice and not an economic necessity. Time and time again this has been demonstrated by the decisions taken by Cameron and Osborne. In the latest budget it was starkly proven once again when Osborne chose to reduce inheritance tax and capital gains tax on the top 5% - paid for by cutting the benefits to disabled people by £30 a week. The Panama papers prove that austerity was totally unnecessary. $21 trillion is estimated to be hidden in tax havens. Tax avoidance has been produced on an industrial scale by the major accountancy firms and banks located in the City of London. Successive governments have turned a blind eye. Worse still the accountancy firms have permeated government and opposition party tax policy making.
The left has repeatedly argued that if the rich and the corporations paid their taxes the deficit would have been eradicated, debt would be on the downturn and our economy would be growing as a result of a sustained investment programme in our infrastructure, skills and public services.
The lid has been blown off the corrupt, inefficient and undemocratic political and economic settlement that has been imposed upon our society in recent years. A window of opportunity has opened up for us to expose the grotesque unfairness of our tax system and set out Labour’s offer of a fair and just alternative. We have started with the publication of a Tax Transparency Enforcement Programme, aiming to force through the registration of information held by companies and trusts in the UK and tax havens to tackle evasion and avoidance, plus the proper resourcing of HMRC to secure effective action against the evaders and avoiders.
The next stages will need to include a programme of action to regulate effectively the accountancy firms and banks which are at the heart of devising the avoidance schemes and also to develop a tax base which reflects the way the economy operates today and which is inherently fairer and more efficient in collecting the taxes due.
Interestingly over recent weeks, alongside the public outrage at the scandalous tax dodging of the super rich and corporations, shareholders’ anger has spilled over in a number of companies at the pay awards of senior executives - often in firms whose performance has been poor. The vote by shareholders of BP to reject pay awards was significant but not the only manifestation of this shareholder fury. Yet again the system has been judged to run counter to what is generally accepted to be fair and productive.
Shareholders may not at first appear to be the natural members or allies of the labour and trade union movement. However the tactic of seeking to use shareholder power and influence has long been used by progressive causes and trade unions over the years to highlight the injustices or unfair practices of a company.
And so alongside the left’s campaign to secure tax justice, now is also the time for the left to link shareholder action to Labour’s overall campaign for greater economic democracy and social justice in our economy overall. In this way we have the opportunity to create a broad alliance for an efficient, successful and fair economy.
John McDonnell is Shadow Chancellor, MP for Hayes and Harlington, Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and Chair of the Labour Representation Committee. He has been heavily involved in Labour Briefing since the early years.
1st May 2016
Labour, Antisemitism and Jeremy Corbyn
Letter to Guardian 30.04.16
We are Jewish members and supporters of the Labour party and of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, who wish to put our perspective on the “antisemitism” controversy that has been widely debated in the last few weeks (Labour’s antisemitism crisis as Livingstone suspended, 29 April). We do not accept that antisemitism is “rife” in the Labour party. Of the examples that have been repeated in the media, many have been reported inaccurately, some are trivial, and a very few may be genuine examples of antisemitism. The tiny number of cases of real antisemitism need to be dealt with, but we are proud that the Labour party historically has been in the forefront of the fight against all forms of racism. We, personally, have not experienced any antisemitic prejudice in our dealings with Labour party colleagues.
We believe these accusations are part of a wider campaign against the Labour leadership, and they have been timed particularly to do damage to the Labour party and its prospects in elections in the coming week. As Jews, we are appalled that a serious issue is being used in this cynical and manipulative way, diverting attention from much more widespread examples of Islamophobia and xenophobia in the Conservative and other parties. We dissociate ourselves from the misleading attacks on Labour from some members of the Jewish community. We urge others, who may be confused or worried by recent publicity, to be sure that the Labour party, under its present progressive leadership, is a place where Jews are welcomed in a spirit of equality and solidarity.
Miriam E David
Professor Stephen Deutsch
Dr William Fleming
Alex J Goldhill
Becka Seglow Hudson
Charles Shaar Murray
Professor Mica Nava
Rabbi Jeffrey Newman
Dr Brian Robinson
Jeff Daniel Rollin
Dr Ian Saville
Professor John Yudkin
30th April 2016
Greece needs a Europe for working people
Greek dock worker addresses British workers
By Barbara Humphries
The Greece Solidarity Campaign held a meeting at the UNITE headquarters in London on Wednesday 26th April, which was addressed by Giorgos Gogos, Chair of the Piraeus dockers. He spoke about the plans to privatise the port of Piraeus. This is part of the massive programme of privatisation forced upon the SYRIZA government, by the terms of the Third Memorandum, the austerity programme of the TROIKA, the European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. Under the terms of this Memorandum, the Greek government is being required to privatise £5 billion of assets, the largest privatisation programme to be carried out anywhere in Europe. The selling off of the terminal ports of Piraeus (Athens) and Salonika (Northern Greece) are included in this programme. The Greek trades unions are completely opposed to this privatisation which is due to take place over the summer, as the Chinese company COSCO is poised to take a 51% stake in the port. It already has two containers in Piraeus since 2009 and sees it as an entrance for the transportation of goods from Asia across the European Union.
Greek trades unions say that privatisation will have a negative effect on the wages and conditions of dock workers, but will also affect the livelihoods of many others across the municipality. COSCO has a poor record of industrial relations and hostility towards small local businesses which use the port. With ferry links so important to connecting the Greek Islands to Athens, both for local people and tourists, it is feared that privatisation will bring about fare increases on a large scale. The campaign against privatisation has been taken out to the local community by the unions.
Giorgos Gogos has addressed port workers in the UK, at Southampton and Felixstowe, appealing for solidarity. He said that the European establishment wanted to bring down SYRIZA, to set an example to other left parties and movements across Europe. Greece cannot be left to fight on alone in this and at its conference in July, UNITE will discuss a resolution from its London and South-Eastern region to call a conference of trades unions and socialist parties across Europe, to discuss policies for an alternative Europe for working people.
29th April 2016
Does Labour Have a ‘Problem with Jews’?
For an excellent analysis of the relationship between antisemitism and Zionism, read David Rosenberg’s article in the current issue of Labour Briefing:
David, from the Jewish Socialists’ Group, has added the following comments:
In recent days, interventions by several people, including many Jewish left wing activists, have begun to deconstruct the “problem with antisemitism” that the Left, and the Labour Party in particular, is charged with, mostly by people with nefarious agendas.
It has also been acknowledged that there are a small number of real incidents that must be addressed. Make no mistake: Ken Livingstone’s crass intervention
yesterday was a massive setback for those efforts, and a free gift to those manipulating the issue for right wing purposes.
Everything that was so wrong about what he said is way too long to put in a Facebook post but in headlines - Hitler’s poisonous attitudes to ALL Jews regardless of their political leanings, his portrayal of them as a cancer and a danger to humanity that he wanted to remove from German life, were well established long before 1932, when he wrote Mein Kampf (1925 and ‘27). The Holocaust was not about one person suddenly going “mad and killing 6 million Jews”.
Like elsewhere in Europe, Zionists were a weak and marginal force in Germany’s Jewish community. Any talk of “Nazi-Zionist collaboration”, “Nazi Zionist deals” etc without reference to the massive power imbalance is nonsense. Some Zionists tried to exploit Nazi intentions to remove Jews from German
society. The vast majority of German Zionists shared the same fate as most German non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews - they were reduced to ashes.
My plea to fellow anti-racist, anti-Zionist, socialist activists is: don’t waste any of your precious time today trying to rationalise, defend or explain away Livingstone’s comments, but concentrate on challenging the terms of the debate as set by the right-wing alliance that are exploiting this whole issue.
Concentrate on how to persuade and split off those who are genuinely worried about rising antisemitism from those exploiting the issues. Concentrate on showing how the Left can demonstrate that the fight against antisemitism is tied up with the fight against all racism including Islamophobia; concentrate on exposing how those feigning sympathy for Jews are implicated in racism against others; and concentrate on ways to ensure free speech and rational debate about the realities of what Zionism and Israeli policy is enacting daily against the Palestinians.
26th April 2016
BHS: “the unacceptable face of capitalism”.
By Mick Brooks
11,000 completely innocent people are in danger of losing their livelihoods. Retailer BHS has gone under.
How did this come to pass? Even Tory MP Richard Fuller called management conduct “the unacceptable face of capitalism”.
The chain was bought by Philip Green in 2000 for £200m. Throughout the period that he ran the business, Green was highly praised in the financial press as a canny operator. After the purchase shareholders, mainly Green and his wife Tina, relieved BHS of £422m in dividends they paid themselves. Technically the firm was owned in the name of Tina, who conveniently lived in the tax haven Monaco.
These two tax-dodging slimeballs were systematically looting BHS. I do not consider myself to be entrepreneurial. But even on my occasional visits to West Ealing’s branch to buy a pair of socks (it’s the only clothes shop in the area) it was clear that the shops were being completely run down by management.
The Greens are the UK’s 29th richest household, said to be ‘worth’ £3.22bn, according to the 2016 Sunday Times Rich List. Others, including BHS employees, may have a different view of what they’re worth. They have just taken delivery of a 90 metre super-yacht called Lionheart. They are clearly taking the mickey.
When he had done the damage and extracted all he could from the chain, Green sold it on for £1 in 2015. It was bought by a group led by Dominic Chappell, a man who has twice been declared bankrupt. He continued in the fine tradition of BHS management of looting the firm and sucking it dry. BHS, though clearly struggling by this time, paid lavish fees to his firm, Retail Acquisitions, and enough in salary so that Chappell could run out and buy a yacht (of course!). BHS was also borrowing money to pay to the directors of Retail Acquisitions. When they had squeezed every penny they could out of the firm, Chappell and co put it into administration.
In addition to 11,000 employees BHS has 20,000 people dependent on their company pension. The pension fund was in surplus when Green took over in 2000. Clearly he had been dipping his hands into the pension fund as well. It now has a deficit of £571m.
Who can help the pensioners? The Pension Protection Fund may have to bail them out. This is a government body which is apparently devised for the sole purpose of offering protection to the innocent from the depredations of the guilty, like Green and Chappell. Many will feel that Green and his like should at the very least be dipping deep into their ill-gotten gains to compensate. They may also think that Green, rather than being knighted for his ‘achievements’, ought to be in prison.
Even a Tory MP recognises that the BHS case study shows “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. Is there an acceptable face to be seen anywhere?
19th April 2016
We are going to vote for Europe, to change Europe.
Letter to Guardian from Labour politicians 17.04.16
We are tired of the companies that abuse their global status to avoid their tax responsibilities or to play one natVote for Europe to Change Europeion’s workers or governments off against others. We want international rules to clamp down on climate change. And we demand humane ways to deal with the growing numbers of migrants and a rebalancing of wealth, income and opportunity across the whole of Europe through new solidarity funds that move as people move.
We know we must stay in Europe if we are ever to get a financial transaction tax; if we are to develop a progressive alternative to TTIP that levels social and environmental protections up, not down; and if we are to build the public platforms for renewable energy, and even new media platforms that are publicly owned and accountable.
We know too that none of this will be easy. But there is no choice. Sovereignty has long escaped national borders and is never coming back. As tough as it is, we have to create a trans-national democratic political and economic union. It is the only hope the left has. If the EU didn’t exist we would build it now – different and better, yes – but we would still build it.
This is not Cameron’s or the Tories’ Europe. This is a Europe inspired by the social and democratic values of Labour. This is a unique moment in which the fate of Britain and Europe will be sealed. The Labour party, Labour members and supporters will be critical. The choice is not exit or surrender but how we transform Europe. Working with social democrats across the continent, victory on 23 June, if we achieve it, is just the starting point for the Europe we want.
John McDonnell MP
Margaret Beckett MP
Clive Lewis MP
Lisa Nandy MP
Emily Thornberry MP
Cat Smith MP
Steve Rotheram MP
Jonathan Reynolds MP
Chris Bryant MP
Rachael Maskell MP
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP
Jo Stevens MP
Louise Haigh MP
Angela Rayner MP
Dave Anderson MP
Richard Burden MP
Peter Dowd MP
Chris Matteson MP
Justin Madders MP
Richard Howitt MEP
Lucy Anderson MEP
Baroness Oona King
Baroness Joan Bakewell
Lord Foster of Bishop Auckland
8th April 2016
John McDonnell on the Panama Papers Scandal
John McDonnell wrote in the ‘Guardian’ on this issue.
The link to his article is here
6th April 2016
LRC Annual General Meeting 2016
Details Now Available
Saturday 29th October
University of London Union
Further Details to be Announced
Put the Date in your Diary Now!
4th April 2016
Save our Steel. The Case for Nationalisation
By Mick Brooks
The threatened closure of the Tata Port Talbot steel works puts 15,000 jobs directly at risk. All in all 40,000 jobs could go, with the British steel industry decimated and working class communities devastated.
The Tory government has shown incompetence and worse in the face of the crisis. Sajid Javid, the minister directly responsible, went off on a jolly to Australia in the full knowledge that a vital Tata board meeting was poised to take a decision on the industry’s future.
Critics have pointed out that:
• Warning signs such as the closure of Redcar were completely ignored.
• UK steel was made to pay much higher business rates than its competitors.
• Energy prices are much higher in the UK than elsewhere.
• There was no instruction to public bodies to buy British where possible.
• The UK has consistently argued against protective tariffs on Chinese steel in the councils of the European Union (EU).
The Tories have disadvantaged the domestic steel industry in every way possible. Now they say they will reverse some of these policies. Too little, too late.
Is this just indifference? When Javid finally met the steel workers he hushed them up with talk of ‘commercial sensitivities’. The Guardian suggests (02.04.16) that “the purpose of the meetings had been to ‘muzzle’ outspoken figures fighting to save jobs in south Wales.” In other words the Tories are taking advantage of the desperation of trade unionists and community leaders to co-operate to save steel jobs in order to stop them speaking out and fighting the closure effectively. If true this is contemptible, but all too typical.
There is also suspicion that the Tories are soft on China because they are dependent on Chinese expertise to build and run their Hinckley white elephant nuclear power station in Somerset. Their behaviour has been abject.
But even if the government had been prepared to stick up for British steel jobs, there is a global crisis to deal with. The world is awash with steel. China has been blamed. Chinese industry is 70% state owned. These state owned corporations have privileged access to loans from the state owned banks. A free world market in steel is a fiction. Every country is striving to protect its own steel industry by all means necessary.
China produces half the world’s steel, 806 million tonnes last year. But this is likely to fall to 783 million tonnes in 2016 because of global overcapacity. China will drop 23 million tonnes this year, more than twice the UK’s total output. Chinese steel workers are also suffering from the crisis.
Overcapacity has provoked a full scale price war. The USA has imposed tariffs of 266% on some Chinese steel products! The EU has a much slower, more bureaucratic procedure to protect the European steel industry from unfair competition, made worse by sabotage from the UK.
Protective tariffs may be necessary as a short term emergency measure; but they are in any case by no means sufficient to save British steel. It is quite clear that private ownership has failed the industry.
Even before the Second World War it was evident that British steel was falling behind its main rivals, Germany and the USA. The industry was briefly nationalised by the 1945-51 Labour government but immediately privatised when the Tories took office afterwards. The Restrictive Practices Court discovered in 1964 that the industry was effectively run by a cartel, the British Iron and Steel Federation, a price-fixing ring which ran as a conspiracy against the public. Ten firms produced 80% of British steel. The Wilson Labour government renationalised the industry in 1967, but made mistakes in doing so.
The British Steel Corporation (BSC) was loaded with excessive compensation to the private owners. For instance Colville’s share price was28 shillings (£1.40) in 1965, yet the old owners got 47/6d (£2.37) per share. Interest payments to the capitalists who had sucked the industry dry burdened BSC for years to come, as did the longstanding lack of investment. In addition BSC was run just like a capitalist firm by managers recruited from the private sector. There was no attempt to tap the enthusiasm of the workforce for a new beginning in the industry by introducing workers’ control.
Lord Melchett was one such Chair of BSC. He joked that if there was no investment within ten years British steel could be turned into an industrial museum for visitors from Japan to marvel at. Most notoriously Ian MacGregor was appointed as Chair in 1980 by Margaret Thatcher. At that time there were142,000 workers in the industry, MacGregor’s brief was to close plants, slaughter jobs and take on the unions. That is what he did. He then went on as head of the Coal Board to take on the miners in the 1984-85 strike.
The steel industry was privatised by Thatcher in 1988 and merged with a Dutch firm to form Corus. At the time this was the third biggest steel maker in the world. The decline of UK steel continued in private hands, and British steel was sold to the Indian firm Tata in 2007. Now it seems Tata wants to pull out. Private steel owners have been afflicted by chronic short-termism. The steel industry has been passed around like a parcel from one owner to another
It has been the plaything of private interests for too long. In 1947 Labour published a pamphlet contemplating steel nationalisation. It stated: “In controlling this industry, upon which the whole economy depends, these men are answerable not to the nation but to sectional interests, interests which look upon steel as just a way of making money – like dance halls or snack bars.”
This remains true. The nation needs steel. The steel industry must be nationalised, but not like last time. British steel needs workers’ control and management. We need to work out democratically what sort of steel industry we need and develop a long term plan not just to save the jobs but also to formulate a long term growth strategy for the future.
Polls show that 62% of the population supports steel nationalisation. They are right. The Tories will ask, ‘How can we afford nationalisation’? The alternative is to pay workers to rot on the dole and destroy working class communities. We can’t afford NOT to take over steel.
When the banks such as RBS, HBOS and Lloyds TSB failed in 2008, the Labour government pumped money in - billions of our money. Northern Rock was nationalised outright. In total we shelled out £1.2trn. The Labour leadership felt that we needed the banks. An industrial country needs a steel industry much more than bankers who gamble with our money and come crying to the taxpayer to bail them out when they lose.
The Tories have ruled out nationalisation. They intend to butcher the industry. But in the last budget they handed out money to the rich in the form of cuts in Capital Gains Tax, Corporation Tax and Income Tax for high earners. The money is there. The need is there. It’s time to take over the steel industry.
28th March 2016
Jeremy Corbyn’s Aberdare Speech
Verbatim Report of a Recent Speech Commemorating Keir Hardie
Thank you for inviting me and thank you to Cynon Valley CLP and Ann Clwyd for organising it. It is an honour to be here in Aberdare, Wales to give the Keir Hardie Lecture and thank you all for coming.
At Labour Party conference last year I spoke at the launch of a new book about Keir Hardie, ‘What Would Keir Hardie Say?’ edited by Pauline Bryan to which I contributed a chapter.
Little did I know when I submitted my piece that I would be following in Keir’s footsteps and soon becoming the Leader of the Labour Party.
Who would have thought it would take 100 years for our party to elect another bearded leader?
I would also recommend Caroline Benn’s biography of Keir. For anyone who doesn’t know, Tony Benn had Keir Hardie’s chair in his house – I sat in it many times. It was extraordinarily uncomfortable. I always thought that the discomfort was an incentive not to talk for too long at meetings!
Friends, it is a great honour to be Labour Leader it is a great honour to be talking about a great man who did more to found our party than any other and who still inspires us to this day.
Tonight, I don’t want to give an historical lecture about Keir Hardie’s life I want us to consider how Keir Hardie continues to inspire and inform us today.
Keir was born in Scotland but he represented a parliamentary seat in England, West Ham South in London’s east end and later here in Wales.
Keir Hardie knew this part of Wales well and got to know many other parts of Britain too because of his work in solidarity with mineworkers all over the country.
He got to know the south Wales coalfields during a six month miners’ strike in the late nineteenth century and then became the local MP for Merthyr and Aberdare.
Talking of Aberdare, I am pleased that this week a son of this great area the PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has rejoined our party.
It is very welcome that thousands of people have joined and rejoined our party doubling our membership and made our party a mass movement again.
Mark Serwotka said a few years ago “Call centres are the new dark satanic mills.We have people who have to put their hand up to ask to go to the toilet. It may not be a factory or a steel foundry, but they’re very difficult jobs, the turnover rates are huge, low paid, oppressive.”
Today the mines are gone but injustice remains in the workplace. That’s why Labour will soon be launching Workplace 2020 – the biggest ever discussion about the world of work. It will be led by our shadow minister for trade unions and civil society, Ian Lavery MP, a former President of the National Union of
The Conservative government boasts of record employment but they can also boast record in-work poverty too. We want more jobs, but they can be good jobs quantity and quality.
For too many people today work is insecure, hours are unstable. Instability at work leads to instability at home.
We have the scourge of low pay, zero hours contracts, temporary agency workers, umbrella companies and bogus self-employment, workfare, unpaid internships and some low quality apprenticeships being used to circumvent the minimum wage legislation.
Minimum wage legislation by the way that Keir Hardie called for and a Labour government delivered and it is Labour councils across the UK that are promoting the living wage. And it is unions like the Bakers whose young inspiring members I recently met in Scarborough that are campaigning for £10 per hour.
And we must also end the scourge of blacklisting. Hardie became a union official and organiser because he was blacklisted as a worker in 1879. He started working in the mines aged 11 and it took him until he was 23 to be blacklisted – obviously a late bloomer!
Seriously though, I want to pay tribute to the work of UCATT, GMB and Unite in campaigning against blacklisting and for the full inquiry that the victims deserve.
So much time has passed, but the fundamental structures of work and sadly many of the abuses … remain unchanged. Unaccountable forces set your pay, your working hours, your working conditions, whether you have a decent pension so much power, so little accountability – unless we force it.
Trade unions were founded to rebalance that power, to organise people together to fight for their rights. Trade unions are the greatest force for equality – when trade unions are weak inequality rises when trade unions are strong inequality reduces.
Keir Hardie knew that. I know it. And the Tories know it too. That’s why they’re trying to force through their Trade Union Bill. The UK already has the most restrictive trade union laws in Europe and the Tories want to tighten them further.
It was only the action of Labour MEPs in partnership with trade unions that ensured workers’ rights were kept off Cameron’s EU negotiations.
Labour is united in fighting the Trade Union Bill we are opposing it in the Commons and in the Lords.
And when Labour is re-elected in 2020 we will repeal that Tory legislation and we will go further – informed by our Workplace 2020 discussions – and set out a modern agenda of strengthened workplace and trade union rights.
Like Hardie, I too believe the House of Lords should be abolished, but as long as it’s there, we will use it as best we can to resist.
And we did that on tax credits Labour forced the government into a u-turn which has saved 3 million families over £1,000 a year, from this April.
I am proud of the tax credits that the last Labour government brought in. They are a lifeline to working people and – with a record six million workers in Britain now paid less than the living wage – they are more necessary than ever.
In Parliament, he faced a baying mob of Tory MPs who derided him as the ‘Member for the Unemployed’. He saw that as a badge of honour rather than an insult. He wasn’t ashamed to stand up for the nemployed, the disabled, those injured at work.
Keir Hardie spoke with vision, with passion, with clarity. He acted with determination and courage – our party would not exist without it. It would not have achieved all it has done over the last century.
And yet many of our members and supporters felt Labour had lost its way. Many people say one of the turning points of the leadership contest was the decision to abstain on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.
Keir Hardie never lived to see one of Labour’s greatest yet under-appreciated achievements – the welfare state. We founded the social security system to eradicate poverty, end homelessness and destitution – to create a safety net through which no one should fall.
Social security saves lives, prevents misery and creates opportunity. It is funded collectively for the good of all – “from each according to their means, to each according to their needs”.
Since September, we as a party have opposed the Tories’ Welfare Reform & Work Bill and we have defeated the government on some elements of it.
I was elected Leader not for who I am, but because members wanted a re-commitment to our values. Not to turn back the clock to 1906 or 1945 or 1997, but because members wanted to know our party was committed to setting out a bold vision to create a fairer society and a better world inspired by the values that have guided our movement and led to our greatest achievements; the NHS, the welfare state, comprehensive education, council housing, the minimum wage, and all the equalities legislation that Labour governments delivered.
The leadership contest wasn’t about electing me, Jeremy Corbyn, it was about the party re-asserting those values, re-asserting itself as a campaigning social movement.
Now we must – together – develop the policies from those values that convince the country and get us elected in 2020.
Keir Hardie took a lot of jibes and he wore them with pride. He came to Parliament to represent working class people and he took that responsibility seriously.
Parliament isn’t a forum to get a newspaper column, a better media profile, a stepping stone to cushy corporate job or an ego boost. We – as Labour MPs – are elected to Parliament to represent people, to make society better for them, we are there to work hard for our constituents as I aspire to and as I know Ann Clwyd always has for you here in Cynon Valley.
Keir Hardie was once asked by a House of Commons attendant, “Are you working here mate?” Hardie answered “I am”. The attendant then enquired, “where, on the roof?”. Hardie is said to have replied, “no, on the floor”. The House of Commons chamber is often referred to as ‘the floor’.
When he first took his seat in 1892 Hardie refused to wear the ‘parliamentary uniform’ of black frock coat, black silk top hat and starched wing collar. Instead, Hardie wore a plain tweed suit, a red tie and a deerstalker. He was lambasted in the press, “cloth cap in Parliament” said one headline.
At least we have moved on from such trivialities today.
But we commemorate Keir Hardie not for what he wore but for what he stood for. Let’s just go through a few of the policies that Keir fought for:
Healthy homes and fair rents – tragically a demand that is still necessary today. When housebuilding has fallen to its lowest level since the 1920s, when rents are rising, evictions are up, homelessness is up and home ownership is falling because people are priced out.
And last month the Tories opposed a Labour amendment to the housing bill which insisted that any home for rent must be fit for human habitation.
Hardie called for a graduated income tax, progressive taxation, yet the Tories cut the 50p rate on the rich to 45p and rumours suggest they may scrap it altogether in the Budget in two weeks’ time.
Even worse they call it a “major success” when they convince big multinational companies to pay just 2% in tax. At Treasury questions, John McDonnell, our shadow chancellor, asked George Osborne about tax justice, the Chancellor looked blank. John replied, “google it!”
Labour would tackle these abuses.
Earlier this week I was invited to speak at the British Chamber of Commerce conference. Some may say they’re not our natural allies.
I disagree. In her biography of Keir, Caroline Benn wrote:
“He profoundly believed the entrepreneur was as ill-served by giant cartels and monopolies as were working men”
I agree. We want to clamp down on the abuses that force employers into a race to the bottom. How can it be right that my local coffee shop pay its taxes, yet the corporate coffee chain next door shifts its tax liabilities abroad? How can tech start-ups grow when established global giants get ‘mates rates’ deals?
By creating a level playing field, strong employment rights, fair taxes, strong rights for consumers too, we stop the undercutting of good businesses by bad businesses.
Tax is not a burden; it is the price we pay to live in a civilised society. And let us be clear, this government has cut taxes for the rich; slashed taxes for large corporations.
Hardie also supported devolution. Again later delivered by a Labour government.But more importantly look at what a Labour government has delivered here in Wales thanks for devolution. I think Keir Hardie would be proud of:
No trebling of student fees
No fights picked with junior doctors
The social care budget protected
The Education Maintenance Allowance abolished by the Tories protected by Labour Wales
Thanks to Hardie and the other Labour MPs elected in 1906, the Education (Provision of Meals) Act was delivered, providing school meals to children and the Wales Labour government has gone further with a free breakfast for all primary school pupils.
Hardie also stood for the women’s right to vote at a time when it was not popular, even sadly in parts of the labour movement. He was arrested for supporting women’s suffrage.
As we approach International Women’s Day (next week, 8 Mar), remember it was Labour that fought for equal votes, Labour that delivered the Equal Pay Act, Labour that delivered the Equalities Act, and Labour that now has a shadow cabinet that has a majority of women.
Keir stood for peace, internationalism, equal rights. To him these weren’t just abstract concepts, but concrete beliefs that informed everything he campaigned for in his political life.
Keir’s life, impressive by any standards, had a universal and global vision that was very different from many other great Labour figures of that period.
This year marks 100 years since the senseless barbarity of the Somme. Hardie died just a few months before it. But just two days before the first world war was declared, he spoke in Trafalgar Square at a rally where a declaration was adopted. It concluded by stating:
“Men and women of Britain, you now have an unexampled opportunity of showing your power, rendering magnificent service to
humanity and to the world. Proclaim
for you that the days of plunder and
butchery have gone by. Send messages
of peace and fraternity to your fellows who have less liberty than
It was a deeply unpopular stance to take at the time. Hardie was hounded at his home and on the street as unpatriotic.
There is nothing less patriotic than sending young British men – and it was mostly men – to die without good cause. And Hardie was a great defender of those who conscientiously objected to war.
As socialists, we are internationalists. We reject the jingoism of ‘my country right or wrong’ whether we see our country as Wales, England, Hardie’s native Scotland, or as Britain.
Hardie worked hard to unite all peace groups as he knew the dreadful day would arrive when Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the Ottoman empire would all be at war – with millions of working men lined up against each other.
As one of the organisers of the 2003 anti-war demonstration in London, I was acutely aware of the breadth of the support and the global nature of the peace movement.
Perhaps the strongest message a century on is that a world of peace can only come by opposing militarism, campaigning for and building a socially just economic system and through the complex work of conflict resolution and sustaining peace.
Syria presents a huge challenge for today’s political leadership. It means patient, difficult diplomacy, working with those we may disagree with.
We have a responsibility to the British people and to the Syrian people. We can’t take the easy option of doing nothing or the other easy option of pretending that dropping bombs can solve complex problems. The world is a complex place and we have to engage in meaningful efforts to secure a more peaceful world.
Neither can we wash our hands of the consequences of wars. The massive refugee crisis should shame us all. It will only be resolved by nations acting collectively to address this and other major international problems, like climate change, tax avoidance, terrorism, trade and human rights.
Keir Hardie knew that working for peace was difficult. I know that. The complexities of 21st century geopolitics are different, but the principles that should inform our decisions endure.
That is why are campaigning to stay in the European Union. The EU is imperfect, but many of its imperfections are those of its constituent parts. It has the potential to deliver as it has when Labour has led in Europe, like on the agency workers’ directive.
Our mission now is the same as that which he laid out just 21 years into the Labour Party’s existence, when he said that the movement would not rest until “the sunshine of Socialism and human freedom break forth upon our land.”
I couldn’t think of a better prescription for what our country needs to break through the narrow, nasty, divisive politics of the Conservatives.
Labour is about building a society and an economy that works for all.
“Socialism makes war upon a system” said Keir Hardie, but Socialism also builds a system as it says on our Labour membership cards, “in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few”.
That is what we must do.
Let us be inspired by the vision and the campaigning energy of Keir Hardie – and deliver that better world.
The elections this May are a choice, a chance to vote for a Labour Party that is standing up, not standing by.
Austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity. The Tories are making unfair choices and putting family prosperity at risk.
The Tories won’t stand up for working people. The choices they are making, cutting in-work support while millionaires get tax breaks, are a risk to family finances while their failure to invest for the future is putting the economy at
Labour will stand up for people to build an economy which works for all, one where prosperity is shared, pay is fair and jobs are secure.
We will stand up for families struggling to buy or rent a home, by delivering more and better housing.
We will stand up against the unfair Tory cuts to protect the vital public services we all rely on. We will protect neighbourhood policing and oppose the deep Tory cuts to the police. And we will invest in the NHS to rescue it from Tory neglect – joining up services from home to hospital so it’s fit for the
Vote Labour this May – we will stand up for you.
28th March 2016
The Future of the LRC
This is a useful summary of the organisational changes adopted at our recent Special General Meeting in response to the changing political situation. We will hold an Annual General Meeting later this year to finalise these changes.
Amended and agreed at NC meeting on 28th November 2015
The Labour Representation Committee needs to be streamlined in its communication methods, both face to face and online. Rather than have an executive committee which meets and then takes proposals to a National Committee we propose to combine these to form a leaner more pro-active National Executive Committee (NEC), members of which will take part in running the organisation.
Members: One officer task which requires streamlining is: membership. We will aim to provide self-registration online, with an automatic receipt being provided by a system. (Postal members will have to be managed manually – but we ask for email addresses at every opportunity.) Dependent on funds, we will aim to provide an online discussion area for members and local groups. The system will request Labour Party CLP information on entry form, as well as union membership. There will of course be exceptional circumstances for non-LP members or supporters, who don’t belong to organisations who stand against Labour.
Steering group (for the period between SGM and AGM). During the transition stage, it will be the existing National Committee. Constitution changes are required to satisfy the new structure; these are being worked on and will be sent out with the Meeting invitation.
Working Body (NEC) proposal for next AGM.
• Honorary President
• Chair & vice chairs(2)/Secretary/Treasurer/Admin/Memberships/Web (at least 4 women)
• National Unions, National Affiliates (1 place per 100 members (maximum 2 seats) – gender balance preferred if possible) Responsible for promoting LRC membership amongst their own memberships
• 8 members nominated by affiliates or other members. (aim for at least 4 women) Must be prepared to take on responsibilities for running the organisation.
• 1 each LGBT/Disabilities/BAME responsible for recruiting, representing and spreading the word.
• 2 representatives for local groups (1 north /1 south) To run a sub-committee of local groups and to increase national coverage of groups.
• All above will be elected at the following AGM
• Co-options by the NEC where and when necessary for administrative tasks
• Some decisions and meetings to be held online to save travel costs.
• Union branches/regions as before. CLPs & Branches as before
• Local groups: Geographically no larger than borough wide in London or no larger than county-wide outside London. Groups must be properly constituted and minuted with minimum number of attendees. Eventually each recognised group will have presence on website – with relevant communication methods. Local group constitution changes are required.
• Each recognised group & regional/branch affiliate has the right to raise motions to AGM conference.
Membership fee: New rates £14 waged; £7 unwaged or low waged, to be voted on at AGM.
24th March 2016
Stop the Labour Purge
Rule change for CLPs to submit to Labour Party conference 2016: “A disciplinary code that meets standards of natural justice”
We are promoting the following rule change for Constituency Labour Parties to submit to Labour NB CLPs can submit one rule change OR one policy motion to the conference. If successful at conference, the rule change will have to pass again next year to come into effect. But we need to get started!
A disciplinary code that meets standards of natural justice
In Chapter 1 Clause 1 Section 3:
Amend sub-section B to read: “support Labour candidates in elections and assist the Party in its activity”.
Delete sub-section C.
Delete section 4 and renumber subsequent sections accordingly.
Add a new section 8: The NCC may exclude members from the Party for breach of the conditions set out in this Clause. Those members must have written notice of the charges against them, adequate time to prepare a reply, and a hearing at the NCC or a panel of the NCC as set out in Chapter 6 of these rules.
In Chapter 6 Clause 1 Section 1, delete “on whatever basis or by automatic exclusion under Chapter 2.4.A above of the membership rules”.
Several hundreds of exclusions in the run-up to the 2015 Labour Party leadership election and a number since have been carried out.
Many have been “automatic exclusions” under Chapter 2 Clause 4 (A). An “automatic exclusion” means that those excluded have no notice of the charges against them until after they are excluded; no hearing; and no right of appeal.
The possible grounds for these “automatic exclusions” are so broad that probably the big majority of Party members can be “automatically excluded” if a Compliance Unit official so wishes. “A member of the Party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party” can be automatically excluded, which means that any member of CLPD, or CND, or Progress, or Friends of the Earth, is vulnerable.
Natural justice demands that the grounds for exclusion be made more precise (the text that remains unamended in Chapter 1 Clause 1 is sufficient for that); notice of charges; and a hearing in front of a constitutionally-established and accountable body.
24th March 2016
CLPD Proposed Rule Changes
The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy is proposing the following rule changes to be proposed at Labour Party Conference 2016:
Clarify the rules for electing Leader to avoid the Party being involved in legal battles
Ensuring a democratic choice in Labour Leadership elections - when there is a vacancy
CLPs to have the right to submit a rule change AND a contemporary motion
Policy Reports: end the choice between all or nothing. Allow conference to vote in parts
Abolish the obsolete one year’s delay re rule changes from CLPs
Remove the arbitrary criterion of ‘contemporary’ in relation to annual conference motions
Full involvement by party branches and branches of affiliated organisations in the selection of Westminster candidates
A two term limit for elected Mayors
A new Local Government Committee structure (instead of the existing Local Campaign Forum)
A democratic Young Labour
24th March 2016
Labour CND and Trident:
Request for Submissions
HELP GET A LABOUR PARTY COMMITMENT NOT TO REPLACE TRIDENT
Emily Thornberry, Shadow Defence Secretary has published her terms of reference for Labour’s defence policy review (attached), asking individual members and local parties to send submissions before 30 April 2016. Labour CND urges you to make your opposition to Trident known, and to encourage your branch and constituency to do likewise.
Emily points to the changed nature of security threats facing Britain today, and asks ‘what role should Britain play in building a world that is more peaceful, more just and safer’.
Her key question on Trident is: Will renewal of Britain’s nuclear capability aid us in protecting Britain’s security and pursuing the values that guide our foreign and defence policy?
Branch and Constituency Submissions
Please ensure that your CLP passes a resolution demanding that the Trident missile system should not be replaced, and sends it to the Defence Policy Review. You are the best judge of how to maximise support for such a resolution. But consider keeping it as short as possible, and if you need suggestions, please get in touch with Labour CND.
If your CLP has already made decisions on defence and security policy, ask that these are communicated to the Review. This should be done even if previous submissions have been made to the National Policy Forum.
You should make an individual submission too, and encourage others to do so. Your submission can go into as much or as little detail as you like. We attach our Trident Fact File which may be of help. All submissions must be sent to email@example.com to arrive before 30 April 2016.
Labour must take the lead in getting rid of Trident. We depend on you.
Yours in peace and socialism,
Walter Wolfgang, Chair Labour CND
17th March 2016
IRELAND - Centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising
by Finn Geaney, Dublin Council of Trade Unions, Teachers Union of Ireland and Irish Labour Party
2016 is the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin. This rebellion against the British occupation of the country was a seminal event in Irish history. On 24 April 1916 a few hundred men and women from the Irish Citizen Army and a section of the Irish Volunteers seized control of a number of key buildings in Dublin and held out against British forces for almost a week. Extensive repressive measures followed the military defeat of the Rising. More than 3,500 men and women were arrested immediately after cessation of hostilities, and more than 2,000 of these were transported to prison camps in Britain. The 15 executions that were carried out in Dublin were spread over a period of ten days. This widespread repression contributed significantly to the growth of resistance to British rule in Ireland.
The Uprising in Dublin in Easter 1916 was principally an uprising of the Dublin working class. Of the men and women who were arrested in April and May 1916 in the immediate aftermath of the Rising it is estimated that more than 80% were workers. The Irish Citizen Army was a workers’ army linked to the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. According to Helena Molony, leader of the Irish Women Workers Union, all the women of the Workers’ Co-op were also members of the Citizen Army. The Constitution of the Irish Citizen Army stated that “the ownership of Ireland, moral and material, is vested of right in the people of Ireland”.
The overwhelming majority of the Irish Volunteers were workers, whereas the principal leaders were largely middle class and aloof from labour struggles, some of them hostile to the aspirations of the labour movement. The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a secret, oath-bound body, was behind the setting-up of the Volunteer movement. Yet tradesmen were predominant in the membership of the IRB in Dublin. Many workers with the Dublin Corporation were also members of the IRB.
The leader of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and of the Irish Citizen Army, James Connolly, was a Marxist who had written extensively about the role of the working class in Irish history. He had been campaigning against the general slaughter of workers and socialists across Europe during World War 1, fighting as soldiers in their respective armies. He saw many members of his own union marching away to war. These same workers had gallantly resisted the massed employers in Dublin during the great Lock Out and Strike of 1913, and many were later forced to enlist in the British army as a result of what James Connolly called economic conscription. By striking a military blow for Irish independence, Connolly argued in the Irish Worker, “Ireland may yet set the torch to a European conflagration that will not burn out until the last throne and the last capitalist bond and debenture are shrivelled on the funeral pyre of the last war-lord.”
This was a far different perspective from that of other leaders of the 1916 Uprising. Padraigh Pearse, nominated by the IRB as Head of the ‘Provisional Government’, elevated armed conflict and the struggle for Irish independence from England to a quasi-religious status. He wrote of the beneficial effects for society of the bloodletting of World War 1, referring to the “red wine of the battlefields” across Northern Europe and the “homage of millions of lives given gladly for love of country”. Connolly wrote a blistering attack on that analysis. Padraigh Pearse and Tom Clarke, two of the principal leaders of the IRB, favoured the installation of a German king in Ireland, should Germany be successful in the War. Toward this end they made contact with the German Prince Joachim.
What distinguishes the 1916 period from earlier uprisings against British rule in Ireland is the active intervention of the organised labour movement. The Rising itself came after more than a decade of growing trade union militancy across many areas of the country including Dublin, Belfast, Sligo, Cork and Wexford, and culminating in the massive Strike and Lockout of 1913. Not only had the trade union movement gone through significant growth during that period but the Irish Labour Party was created by the trade unions.
The IRB on the other hand evolved in the 1870s from the Fenian Brotherhood in the United States, with the sole aim of creating by force of arms an independent Irish State free of British rule. By the turn of the century the IRB had significant numbers in Ireland.
The Irish Volunteers emerged in 1914 from a split in the mass movement known as the Volunteers. The latter organisation had been set up to defend the Irish Home Rule Bill that was then going through the Westminster Parliament immediately prior to the beginning of World War 1. In September 1914, a majority of the Volunteers supported a call by John Redmond MP for enlistment by Irishmen on the side of Britain in the War. The minority, less than 10% of the total, became known as the Irish Volunteers. It was a section of this latter force that came together with the Irish Citizen Army in a common struggle at Easter 1916. In the months immediately prior to the Rising Connolly, on hearing of the IRB plans for an insurrection, had discussions with their leaders and agreed to unite with them in the military struggle.
The Irish State that emerged after the events of 1916 and the following years fell far short of that envisaged by James Connolly. Ireland became a conservative, Catholic state with widespread poverty, continuing emigration and denial of women’s rights.
The labour movement lost its most significant leaders. James Connolly was executed, as was Michael Mallin, also a leader of the Irish Citizen Army and one time secretary of the Silk Weavers Union. Richard O’Carroll, a Labour councillor on the Dublin Corporation, was murdered by a British Army Captain. Peadar Macken, a member of the Executive Committee of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, was killed in the fighting, as were many other trade union members. Several trade union and labour leaders were arrested and interned after the Rising. In the years immediately following the events of 1916 the remaining labour leaders gradually withdrew from the struggle for national independence, allowing a political vacuum to develop. As the Irish Party at Westminster became more and more discredited the Sinn Féin Party was enabled to grow, from a mere sect to a mass party. The organised labour movement, at one time to the forefront in the national and class struggles, took a back seat
Sinn Fein took no formal part in the 1916 Uprising. Arthur Griffith founded Sinn Fein in 1905 around a political programme that included a dual monarchy between Britain and Ireland. Griffith opposed the Dublin workers in their 1913 confrontation with the Dublin employers. Until 1917 the official policy of Sinn Fein called for support for ‘King, Lords and Commons’ for Ireland. At the time of the Easter rebellion membership of Sinn Fein scarcely extended beyond one branch in central Dublin. Today’s conservative parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael emerged from splits in Sinn Fein. Partly as a consequence of the failure of the labour leaders after Connolly to remain in the vanguard of the movement for national independence, Sinn Fein was enabled to fill the political vacuum.
The Rising of 1916 was not a mass movement. Only 700 took part in Dublin, where the only serious action occurred. Although labour leaders were deeply involved no strike movement was called in support. Nor was any link forged with the most industrialised part of the country at the time, Belfast. There were also military and tactical failures, such as the absence of clear military aims in the various buildings that were seized in Dublin and a countermanding order against mobilisation from the leader of the Irish Volunteers Eoin MacNeill.
Lenin referred to the events of 1916 Rising as an uprising of “a section of workers”, and commented that the “misfortune of the Irish” was that the “European revolt of the proletariat” had “not yet matured”. Two years later there were mass uprisings by the labour movement across the continent against the major capitalist powers, in Germany, Austria, Britain and other countries; and the Bolsheviks were victorious in Russia in 1917.
The official scenario for 2016 in Ireland will provide an opportunity for conservative forces in the country to propagate a nationalist consensus empty of class content. They will try to eliminate the key role of the labour movement. Men like Padraigh Pearse, a conservative Catholic nationalist, have always been elevated, to the detriment of James Connolly, Michael Mallin and other labour leaders. However a number of trade unions and the Dublin Council of Trade Unions will be organising their own events for 2016 and publishing separate material which emphasises the key positions occupied by socialists of the period, in both the political and military fields.
16th March 2016
Down with Benefit Cuts for the Disabled
By Ian Malcolm-Walker
The LRC condemns the latest cut in benefits for disabled people that the Tories have announced.
As with many such cuts it appears just to be a technical matter.
There is nothing technical in losing £55 a week from your Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and up to £100 a week on top of that in the amount of other benefits that that might trigger.
This cut follows a short consultation that included the Christmas period.
The majority of the majority of responses correctly:
>questioned the robustness of the current assessment process,
>believed that aids and appliances were a good indicator of additional costs, and
>expressed concern about the impact of any “reforms” on claimants and public services.
The assessment scores of 600 000 plus claimants will be cut from 2017.
PIP was introduced solely to reduce the number of claimants by the use of an arbitrary points system akin to the discredited Work Capacity Assessment.
PIP is still not fully in place with many Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants still to migrate. Although many people have already lost money or even lost entitlement altogether, as predicted by Esther McVey, the damage is not severe enough for Iain Duncan-Smith.
Many people with physical impairments are getting the 8 points necessary to get the lower payment for daily living as they use aids or adaptions for a range of activities. To stop these points adding up to eligibility Duncan-Smith is lowering the score in two areas from 2 points to 1.
Many people have settled for 8 points as it triggers money rather than appeal for more points despite evidence that ATOS and Capita are giving people 2 points in various sections when the qualify for more.
Both on PIP and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), these crude points based systems linked to computer based assessments need to be replaced with a proper system developed with disabled people. Labour needs to do that work now, so that a new system is ready to run when it takes power in 2020.
It also needs to demand the Tories come clean on how much disabled people have lost in total since 2010 and on how many resultant deaths there have been.
The first thing that happened after this article was published was the closure of the Conservative Disability Group website: see here
A message was posted on the website: “This website is now permanently closed owing to Disability Cuts and will no longer be developed.”
Then Iain Duncan Smith resigned from the Tory Cabinet over the welfare cuts criticised in Ian Malcolm-Walker’s article. An almighty row has enveloped the Tory Party. We would encourage our Ian to write more on the LRC website to see how many other resignations he can provoke.
10th March 2016
BLACKLIST SUPPORT GROUP STATEMENT
The Blacklist Support Group issued the following statement regrading the current High Court litigation (Thursday 10th March 2016):
Blacklisting is human rights abuse on an industrial scale. The secret conspiracy that ruined the lives of thousands of hard working men and women was orchestrated by the directors of multinational construction firms. Seven years ago they denied everything and refused to pay a penny. The recent press reports that companies have now paid out around £20 million to settle a small number of High Court claims demonstrates the success of the campaign to expose the blacklist.
But justice for blacklisted workers will not be served if the employers are able to buy themselves out of a High Court trial altogether. Those that actively participated in the systematic victimisation of union members over decades need to be held to account. The full force of the law must be brought to bear upon these captains of industry and the companies that profited from their illegal actions.
Blacklisted workers richly deserve compensation but many of us are concerned that the British legal system may allow big business to escape any kind of legal sanction. We have been fighting this scandal for many years: a few thousand pounds cobbled together by lawyers behind closed doors is not good enough. No blacklisted worker should be forced to accept compensation if they want to proceed to the full trial. Justice demands that the guilty parties are exposed to the spotlight of legal scrutiny at the High Court trial in May. Justice demands that the voices of those that suffered be heard. Blacklisted workers will not be silenced.
Even if every blacklisted worker receives compensation, if the companies escape any legal judgement, the blacklisting scandal will remain unfinished business. And we will never give up our struggle.
9th March 2016
Bring back our NHS in England
Letter to Guardian Friday 4th March
NHS services and assets, including blood supplies, nurses, scanning and diagnostic services, ambulances, care homes, hospital beds and buildings – which the British public own – are being handed over to UK and foreign private companies. This is being done without a public mandate. Privatised services cost the NHS and taxpayer far more than when provided by our publicly owned and publicly run NHS. That is because public health systems don’t seek profits. They don’t need to pay dividends to shareholders. They don’t have the added costs of private sector loans. And they don’t have privatisation’s heavy and unnecessary marketising costs of contracts, billings and all the extra administration involved.
The huge commercial costs and chaos caused by the ongoing NHS fragmentation are the direct result of privatisation. This is endangering the quality and safety of our public healthcare. That is why we need the National Health Service bill.
The cross-party NHS bill to bring back the NHS in England as a national universal service and to get rid of the expensive, chaotic internal and external market is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday 11 March. It is supported by thousands of individuals and by Labour, Green, SNP and Lib Dem MPs, including Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. We urge MPs to do everything they can to make sure the bill is debated, and to vote in favour of it so that it proceeds to the next stage.
See the full list of signatures at nhsbill2015.org
Support the NHS Bill
Join the Day of Action on Friday 11th March
2nd March 2016
Economic credibility and radical alternatives
THE JOHN MCDONNELL COLUMN IN LABOUR BRIEFING
SINCE LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE, LABOUR has been an anti-austerity party, rejecting the failed approach to macroeconomics that has done so much damage to this country and across Europe. All of us in the Labour Party should be immensely proud of that. But this is just the very beginning. We need to state clearly what our overall political objective is.
Our aim should be to create a society that is radically fairer, more equal and more democratic and based upon a sustainable prosperity that is shared by all. In developing our economic strategy our task now is to investigate every policy and institution operating in the British economy to assess whether they are fit for purpose in democratising and transforming our economy. I have commissioned a range of reviews by respected figures in their fields into the key institutions of economic decision-making - the Treasury, the Bank of England and HMRC. We need to understand the failed policies of the past and why they still dominate our economic debate. But most of all we need to begin to put forward a radical alternative. That’s why I have assembled our Economic Advisory Council (EAC). It brings together some of the foremost economists in their areas to advise us in their areas of expertise, which range from labour economics to shadow banking to monetary and fiscal policy. The EAC is the backbone of our New Economics series, which was launched last month to raise the level of economic debate and outline radical alternative thinking. Across the UK the members of our EAC, and others, are speaking to packed halls about the important economic issues of our day. It’s important that LRC members participate fully in these events which are all free and advertised on the New Economics website.
It is critically important that the left demonstrates the technical understanding and ability to transform our economy. However demonstrating technical competence is not enough to convince the electorate to trust us with the management of the economy. Osborne has been disastrously technically incompetent in managing the economy. He has missed and failed on every target he has set himself over the last six years - and yet the Tories won the last election because they were more trusted on the economy. The reason is that since 2008 they were allowed to set the economic agenda and to define the economic narrative. In particular they successfully promoted the narrative that the crisis of the banking sector was a crisis of overspending on the public sector. Winning back economic credibility is the most important fight in a generation. Step by step we need to demonstrate that of course we can manage government budgeting effectively. This isn’t about accepting cuts but making sure our income from taxation and economic growth matches our spending. It also means recognising the importance of borrowing for investment, which lays the foundations for future economic prosperity. Investment in our infrastructure pays for itself by expanding economic activity and raising tax revenues. To support our investment programmes we also need a tax system which is fair and fit for the era of globally mobile capital.
At a recent LSE lecture I also gave notice that we will be looking at the fundamental questions facing our economy, for example:
» how assets are owned and shared and how wealth is created and by whom;
» and how we tackle the profound challenges facing our society including climate change, rapid technological advance and an ageing population.
This coming period offers us the potential for the most creative discussion of economic policy since the paradigm shifting discussions, that set the policy programme of the Attlee government after the Second World War and produced the Welfare State. I urge all on the left to participate inthe lecture and seminar series and attend the annual state of the economy conference we are convening on 21 May. In addition I urge supporters to encourage their CLP to organise a local economic seminar or to do so through their local Momentum branch.
Elaine Smith MSP: An Appeal for Support
Comrades will know how tough the forthcoming elections in Scotland will be. It is critical that we support our Scottish comrades in this campaign. One of those comrades is Elaine Smith. Elaine has been the convenor of the Campaign for Socialism and has been courageously at the forefront of every major working class struggle waged in Scotland over decades. She needs people to assist her constituency campaign on the ground and donations to help fund her campaign. I would urge members of the left to assist this excellent socialist all they can. You can send cheques to Samantha Byrne, Constituency Secretary, Coatbridge and Chryston CLP, 38 Orchard Grove, Coatbridge. ML5 3PL.
Labour Briefing is the magazine of the LRC
1st March 2016
Momentum: Activists have their say at last
ORGANIZER OF MOMENTUM THANET, REPORTS ON A STEP FORWARD.
THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF MOMENTUM MET for the first time at the start of February. That part is beyond dispute. Then came the ‘reports’. Scathing ones by papers like theTelegraph were to be expected. But there was also a strangely suspicious report by Labour List reproducing a so-called ‘leak’ (one wonders why they didn’t simply ask Momentum delegates – after all, reports were all over Facebook pretty much as soon as the meeting finished). Barely accurate at best, right wing blogger Guido Fawkes claimed elections to the Steering Committee were a fix. Well, not only was I there, but to my surprise I was elected to the Steering Committee. So Guido, I wish you had said this before, it would have saved me a lot of bother.
Momentum groups have been divided into regions, reflecting the geographical boundaries of the Labour Party. While I was a delegate from the LRC, I’m also an organiser for Momentum Thanet, one of the more established Momentum branches – if that’s what we are – in the South East region. I had been looking forward to the National Committee. After all, how do you democratically ‘start’ a grassroots movement?
It was clear the desire to bring together a ‘broad church’ of the left was behind the National Committee structure with delegates from Momentum groups and from Labour organisations such as the Labour representation Committee, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and Compass as well as from affiliated and unaffiliated unions including the Fire Brigades Union and the Bakers’ Union. Some inside and out of Momentum feared (some, I suspect, even wanted) a quick implosion. In the event, nothing of the sort occurred.
There was plenty of networking – people were keen to meet each other. While it was agreed that delegates had been given too little time to read all the papers, and most had no time to refer papers to those we represented, what was remarkable was the consistent message reflected in the voting – the majority wants Momentum to be as open as possible, focused on the Labour Party, not a simulacrum of it.
Proposals to make Momentum a membership organisation were accepted after clarification that all those now on the database, if they lacked the £5 (unemployed) or £10 annual fee, could remain members. The suggested ban on the sale of left wing journals from other organisations was easily voted down. Some proposals, for example to organise a national Momentum conference and a youth conference, were referred to the Steering Committee with the proviso that a Youth Committee would go ahead. But the most significant votes were those relating to membership and the election of the Steering Committee.
Out of three proposals the best option, in my opinion – allowing membership to anyone not a member of an organisation that stands candidates against Labour – won by a significant majority. Interestingly, as we are delegates to the National Committee, our votes were recorded to allow for accountability. A suggestion: if you want to get to grips with what may be the dynamics of the Steering Committee, check out who voted for what (we were told that the votes would be made public) – from the two votes for allowing only Labour Party members to join or support Momentum, the 18 who wanted to restrict full Momentum membership to Labour Party members but allow non-members to have some participation locally as supporters as long as they didn’t support rival candidates, as well as the 27 who supported the winning proposal. This vote reflects something of the political/ strategic differences between more Labour-centric groupings and those who believe we can only win the Party if we build a mass movement outside to support the struggles inside. No doubt these divisions will be played out in the future in the Steering Committee.
It was unfortunate, considering the significant number of those relatively new to this kind of activists’ politics, that the 30seconds allowed to candidates to pitch for Steering Committee positions gave delegates little (or in one case no) opportunity to ascertain how they intended to contribute as members of the Steering Committee. Union representation is yet to be decided. The Steering Committee so far is: Jon Lansman, Marshajane Thompson, Sam Wheeler, Michael Chessum, Jackie Walker, Jill Mountford, Christine Shawcroft and Cecile Wright.
There was a small but significant pointer on the way Momentum may go. While it was agreed this year wasn’t the time to debate the NEC slate, it was registered that the Centre-Left Grass Roots Alliance slate for the NEC should be a topic for debate for the future.
The atmosphere was pretty buoyant by the end of the meeting. The devil, as ever, will be in the detail.
or Jackie Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is reprinted from the March 2016 issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC
1st March 2016
Editorial in Labour Briefing:
Tory Britain - Our tasks
February 25, 2016
Welcome to Tory Britain:
» where the annual rise in the death rate is the biggest it’s been for half a century;
» where the council house waiting list is at its longest since 1997, yet court evictions in the capital have doubled over five years;
» where the government penalises even the under-sevens by cutting the subsidy for free lunches in small schools;
» where the Housing Bill will drive more people into homelessness, by raising rents, ending secure tenancies and forcing councils to sell off homes;
» where government policy on health and education is driving record numbers out of these professions - not that the Tories care especially, as one of the main goals is the privatisation of these services.
It is now a given that public funding will be dispensed in the most party political manner, comparable to the cronyism of a one-party state. In a blatant bribe, the government is throwing over 80% of an extra £300 million in local authority funding at the wealthy southern Tory-voting shires - not that this will prevent deep cuts in services, as in West Berkshire, now planning to close eight out of nine of its libraries.
On the same basis, the Trade Union Bill will rob the Labour Party of much of its traditional source of funding - contributions from affiliated trade unions. This is the cleanest money in politics compared to the strings-attached corporate donations that the Tory Party depends on.
Up to £10 million a year could be lost to our Party by new proposals to make trade unionists “opt in” to pay the political levy, leaving Labour struggling to compete with the financial firepower of the Tories. Even charities are being targeted by this desperate government: new rules threaten their status if they are critical of the government, which is also leaning on councils not to allow boycotts of oppressive regimes.
None of these problems accumulating in Tory Britain are addressed by the debate over EU membership, particularly on the anti-immigrant, anti-welfare basis that the government has shamefully framed it. This narrow focus underlines that Cameron’s limited renegotiation and the upcoming referendum are primarily aimed at resolving differences in the Conservative Party and heading off the now collapsing support for UKIP, the party that so rattled the Tories a couple of years ago. For many ordinary people, this exercise looks increasingly like an orchestrated distraction from the government’s hasty asset-stripping of every aspect of the public sector.
For Cameron, this is a risky strategy which could make his own position imminently precarious - just as that of his opposite number feels increasingly secure. In a recent Times piece entitled “Why Corbyn may last longer than Cameron”, one commentator quoted an insider’s observation about Labour’s leader that centre-left papers are still unwilling to concede: “Everywhere he goes he gets the most amazing reaction. He gets mobbed. People wait outside halls and want selfies and autographs. And new members are still joining up at a thousand a week. That’s unprecedented.”
Heartening stuff. But, as we know, the enthusiasm with which Jeremy Corbyn is greeted across the labour movement and beyond stands in sharp contrast to the grudging toleration he gets from many of his parliamentary colleagues. Without a programme or a candidate, in the short term most of these see little prospect of reversing Corbyn’s historic win last year. But that does not stop some plotting against him, being obstructive or simply trying to mobilise acolytes in the Party to isolate him from his huge support base.
For Corbyn supporters, now grouping together in Momentum, there is a twofold job to do. Firstly, the right wing’s attempt to isolate the leader must be beaten off in all sections of the Party. Itis vital that Jeremy Corbyn has a supportive NEC and the backing of all levels of the party organisation - at constituency and regional level and amongaffiliates. The left’sconvincing gains in the elections to Young Labour’s National Committee is an excellent start.
Last year’s great win must be translated into a transformation of the Party across the board, to turn it outwards into a campaigning, election-winning organisation.
And this complements the other key task facing us: building a much broader movement that can take the Corbyn agenda out into the country at large, to build on the support among activists and turn it into a majority that can kick the Tories out of power and bring in a radical Labour government, perhaps the first in generations.
Labour Briefing is the magazine of the LRC.
14th February 2016
LRC Special General Meeting Amendments 2016
13th February 2016
LRC Special General Meeting 2016
– After Corbyn’s Victory
11th February 2016
Call Time on Failed NHS Privatisation
Letter to Guardian Monday 8th February
NHS privatisation in England has increased dramatically since the Health and Social Care Act was passed in 2012. The most recent official figures show that in 2013-14 the NHS paid £6.6bn to private healthcare firms – the equivalent of £18m a day. But despite this huge outlay, there is still no evidence that the private sector is any better, more efficient or cost effective.
Indeed, there have been some spectacular contract failures – Circle at Hinchingbrooke hospital, Serco with Suffolk’s community services, and Arriva and the North West Ambulance Service to name but a few.
We also have the disturbing situation where many of the 200-plus bodies in England that plan, source and oversee healthcare in their local areas are seeking advice from the very organisations that stand to profit hugely from outsourcing. It’s hardly surprising that these clinical commissioning groups are increasingly awarding contracts outside the NHS.
Some of these companies are the offshoots of US multinationals, and there is a real danger that if we continue down this road we could end up with a repeat of the American experience where income, rather than need, dictates the level of care that a patient can expect.
Resources are scarce and this surge in privatisation is a huge waste of public money. The billions spent creating the internal market, in which private firms are thriving, could have gone on patient care.
And every time a contract collapses, it’s taxpayers who have to step in and pick up the tab. As the representatives of more than a million NHS employees, we urge the government to call time on its failed privatisation experiment.
Dave Prentis General secretary, Unison
Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite
Tim Roache General secretary elect, GMB
Professor Cathy Warwick Chief executive, Royal College of Midwives
Warren Town Director of industrial strategy, Society of Radiographers
Professor Karen Middleton Chief executive, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
Andy Burman General secretary, the British Dietetic Association
Rowena McNamara Chair, British Orthoptic Trade Union
Eddie Saville General secretary, Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association
9th February 2016
Momentum Goes Forward
Short report of their first National Committee meeting on Saturday 6th February
The National Committee decided that Momentum should become a membership organisation. Members of other political parties will not be eligible for membership of Momentum.
Membership will be open to Labour members, affiliated supporters, and supporters of the aims and values of the Labour Party, who are not members of other political parties (except the Co-Operative Party, which has an electoral agreement with Labour).
The meeting elected a Steering Committee of eight people, including our Jackie Walker, a member of the LRC EC. In addition there will be four representatives from trade unions, one from Scotland and one from Wales.
Further details to follow
7th February 2016
Let’s seize the opportunity!
Labour Briefing Editorial February 2016
DESPITE NO SIGNS OF A LET-UP IN THE RELENTLESSLY HOSTILE MEDIA BARRAGE, there are several huge positives that can be taken from the fIrst months of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Firstly, the convincing win in the Oldham by-election underlined solid support for Labour, notwithstanding press predictions of a meltdown.
Secondly, Jeremy’s New Year reshuffle, particularly the appointment of Emily Thornberry as Shadow Defence spokesperson, actually strengthens his position in the Shadow Cabinet ahead of the Trident policy review. Her stance on this is far closer to Corbyn’s than that of the displaced Maria Eagle. While the media made much of the protracted dramas of the reshuffle process, blame for this lies entirely with those (like the soon forgotten Stephen Doughty), who seized the opportunity to inflict maximum damage not just on the leadership, but on the Party itself.
Junior shadow ministerial resignations may grab a headline, but ultimately they are a sign of impotence. Alastair Campbell showed more foresight than many of his Blairite friends when he conceded recently that Corbyn’s position was ‘unassailable’. He understands that without a clear alternative set of policies, popular narrative or even a candidate, his co-thinkers in the Parliamentary Labour Party have little to offer beyond petulant gestures and intrigues against the leadership.
There will be a big debate in the Party on Trident and the size of Corbyn’s popular mandate puts him in a strong position. What’s undeniable is that his refusal to compromise on this essential pillar of his leadership campaign has already broken the elite consensus on this issue, generating a public conversation for the first time in many years on the merits of Britain’s nuclear ‘deterrent’.
Corbyn’s biggest achievement has been to transform Labour into a firmly anti-austerity Party, challenging, unlike his predecessors, every Tory cut and betrayal. The clarity of this narrative, so absent in the 2015 General Election campaign, together with a leader who has never compromised his principles, will resonate increasingly withvoters.
And increasingly, Corbyn’s opponents in the Party are having to accept – for now, at least – that there isn’t going to be a fresh leadership challenge. Hence a strategy by some to embrace Corbyn from the centre, to pull him towards their political outlook, to neutralise him. Rather than challenge the leader directly, they attack his supporters - his staff, those who defend him in the media and above all, Momentum, the grassroots movement so necessary if the issues raised in the leadership campaign are to become party policy.
But the building of this movement is not primarily about changing Labour’s internal culture, important though this undoubtedly is. It’s about winning back voters - as Momentum’s organisation of several buses of activists to campaign in the Oldham by-election demonstrates. For all its public school bravado, this Tory government, with its lack of long-term strategy, its mean-minded cuts and its unpopular attacks on public healthcare and housing, is reminiscent of John Major’s government a generation ago. Just as it presided over the final destruction of deep coalmining, so Cameron’s crew is allowing the steel industry to be smashed up. Like Major’s, this government increasingly has the feel of a one-term administration, focusing more and more on its own internal divisions, with a polarised debate on the EU and a messy leadership contest beckoning.
But it could be around for a few years yet to wreak its damage. However isolated Jeremy Corbyn may be in Parliament, we have a real opportunity to make a difference, building on the huge influx of new members into the Party and the many tens of thousands still outside keen to advance the Corbyn agenda. Now is the time to build a mass movement that can not only support his endeavours at Westminster, but above all drive the Tories from power and put Team Corbyn into Number Ten.
7th February 2016
Centre-left candidates for the 2016 Labour Party NEC, NCC and Treasurer elections
Centre left candidates for the 2016 Labour Party NEC, NCC and Treasurer elections are:
National Executive Committee (NEC) - Ann Black; Ken Livingstone; Christine Shawcroft; Claudia Webbe; Darren Williams; Peter Willsman
National Constitutional Committee (NCC) - Chris Williamson
Treasurer - Diana Holland
Download pdf leaflet from: http://www.clpd.org.uk/
7th February 2016
LIFT THE BAN ON THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF UKRAINE! BUT OPPOSE NEO-STALINISM!
STATEMENT OF THE UKRAINE SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN
The Ukraine Solidarity Campaign condemns the decision of the District Administrative Court of Kyiv on 16th December 2015 to suspend the activities of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU). This judgement in effect prevents the CPU from participating in elections and engaging in other activities under its own name. On 25th January 2016, the Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine upheld the judgement, which is now being challenged at the European Court of Human Rights.
The District court judgement considered that the CPU had failed to conform with the controversial law “On the condemnation of Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes in Ukraine and prohibition of promoting their symbols”. An earlier judgement on 23rd July 2015 de-registered the CPU, which prevented it from standing in local elections under its name. The CPU then stood under the name of ‘New State’ in the elections.
We oppose the ban on the CPU not out of support for its reactionary, nationalist politics but in the interests of freedom and democracy in Ukraine itself. We share the concerns of human rights organisations that have strongly criticised both the judgement and the law upon which it was based.
Amnesty International has condemned it as a betrayal of the aspirations of the EuroMaidan rebellion, John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe stating: “Expressing your opinion without fear of prosecution, particularly if that opinion is contrary to the views held by those in position of power, was one of the principles behind the EuroMaidan protests. Snuffing out the Communist party flies in the face of these ideals.” Whilst Volodymyr Yavorsky, of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union condemned it as contravening the European Convention on Human Rights. Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group also condemned the court in backing the Justice Ministry, noting: “It may well be that the SBU [Security Service] can prove that there is a need in democratic Ukraine to ban the Communist Party on the grounds of danger to national security. Neither it nor the Justice Ministry have thus far done so.” The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission has slammed the law on propaganda of communist and Nazi regimes for failings which could infringe people’s right to freedom of expression and of association. Despite meeting the Ukrainian authorities, to date there has been are no changes in the ‘de-communisation’ laws or their application.
Myth and Reality
Whilst opposing the ban on the CPU, the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign disassociates itself from a campaign in the UK which aligns itself directly with the reactionary politics of the CPU. This does not help the Ukrainian labour movement, democratic socialists or human rights in Ukraine.
It is a fact that first restrictions on the CPU took place in the area controlled by the Russian client Donetsk Peoples Republic. Despite its loyalty to the regime, it excluded the local CPU, rebranded as ‘Communist Party of the Donetsk Peoples Republic’, from taking part in elections in October 2014 and again in October 2015. It is revealing that the neo-Stalinist parties in the UK have been silent about this ban by authorities that they defend.
That there has been no popular upsurge in defence of the CPU is something that cannot be explained simply by the presence of far-right organisations or embellished accounts of repression. It is true that war in parts of the East and annexation of Crimea, has damaged its main base of support. However it is a fact that for a great many Ukrainians, including trade unionists and socialists, the CPU is utterly discredited. Support for the CPU was plummeting long before the war. In the last Parliamentary elections before the EuroMaidan the CPU won no MPs in single member districts, dropping to 13.2% of the proportional vote, whilst CPU leader Petro Symonenko dropped to 3.5% in the 2010 Presidential election. This reality reinforces our view that it is for the Ukrainian people to judge the record of the CPU not the courts
Read the full statement here: http://ukrainesolidaritycampaign.org/2016/02/07/18731/
3rd February 2016
More Banking Mayhem on the Way?
By Mick Brooks.
Reprinted from the February 2016 issue of Labour Briefing,
magazine of the LRC
Martin Wheatley, head of the Financial Conduct Authority, was summarily dismissed from his post in July. His crime? He was trying to do his job of effectively regulating the banks. George Osborne and the Treasury are facing a deluge of lobbying from the financial sector, and they have caved in completely.
Financial mismanagement matters. According to Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, the costs of the crisis triggered by the banks could add up to £7.4trn in lost output. Currently we collectively produce about £1.75trn in a year, so the banks have cost us more than four years production – lost forever.
Also the FCA has now abandoned a proposed review of the banking sector’s catastrophic culture. The banks have got away with it. The ‘Financial Times’ has confirmed that a bigwig from the Bank of England presided over the retreat from the inquiry.
Osborne says it’s time to abandon banker bashing. What banker bashing? Iceland, with a population of a little over 300,000, has banged up 26 bankers for malfeasance during the 2007-8 Great Recession. In the UK just a few small fry involved in the London Interbank Offered Rate fiddle have recently been sent to prison. There is no doubt that fixing LIBOR and foreign exchange rate rigging were criminal frauds, but the authorities seem unable or unwilling to act against the people most responsible.
New rules have been drafted so that senior bankers would have to account for their failings in the event of another banking crash. Now the burden of proof has been reversed, so the authorities will have to positively prove bankers’ fault. So far the banking magnates have successfully concealed their criminal irresponsibility for the crisis amid the thickets of financial complexity. Their excuse seems to be that they were too stupid to understand what was going on!
The Green Report prepared by City regulators nails the directors and the board at HBOS for the near-collapse of the bank in 2008 and declares that, “the people most culpable were let off.” HSBC has recently been reported as helping rich clients evade tax – which is a criminal offence. No action has followed in either case so far.
The ‘elephant deal’ negotiated by Barclays shows how the banks support criminality instead of lending their money to build up British industry and British jobs. The bank did not run checks on ‘politically exposed persons’ (in other words crooks) who wanted to transfer £1.88bn in a hurry. The crooks insisted on strict anonymity from the bank. Barclays at once agreed.
Where had the money come from? “Landholdings, real estate and business and commercial activities,” replied the clients. The FCA noted that this meaningless waffle, “failed to minimise the risk that it may be used to facilitate financial crime.” We still don’t know who these guys are. Barclays has maintained its omerta. The FCA eventually fined Barclays £72m. But that’s peanuts!
Fines imposed by the FCA on the banks overall fell by 40% in 2015. And the seven City banks got away with paying just £21m corporation tax in 2014 on revenues of £12bn and UK profits of £3,6bn.
Britain is particularly vulnerable to a crisis of capitalism affecting the banking sector. The assets controlled by finance capital are bloated up to four time our GDP. Before the crisis the banks were ratcheting up the risks to the rest of us in search of rewards for themselves. In 2007-8 they were lending out 50 times as much as they held in assets. That meant that only 2% of their loans had to go bad before they were in deep water.
It was belatedly recognised that the banks were gambling with our livelihoods and with other people’s money. A more prudential approach was adopted after the crash, and has been progressively abandoned under the Tories. Finance capital is lobbying hard at measures in the Banking Reform Act, passed by Parliament in 2013. At present the capital requirement of the banks stands at 33-1, so only 3% of loans need fail before we’re on the boom-slump helter skelter again.
Osborne’s counter-reforms and the restoration of the ‘light touch’ regulation are building up the instability in the financial sector that contributed to the onset of the Great Recession. It could all happen again. Vince Cable, former Business Secretary now out of office, claims the establishment is turning “a blind eye to abuses in the banking system.”
Why is Osborne doing it? Some may suggest it is because the Tories are dependent on funds from high finance. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that half of the Conservative Party’s donations came from sinister bodies such as hedge funds. £19m flowed into their coffers from wealthy fund managers before the last general election. This seems to have been money well spent. In this view the Tories are institutionally corrupt.
You may very well think that. I could not possibly comment.
25th January 2016
Blacklist Support Group latest
High Court orders blacklist firms to disclose further evidence
and issues costs of £100,000 against them
On Friday 22 Jan, the High Court made judgments against blacklisting firms; Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci PLC ordering them to disclose further evidence from back up computer tapes of emails that despite previous court orders, they had failed to provide.
The two day hearing before Lord Justice Supperstone and Master Leslie heard revelation after revelation about the extent of destruction of documents by the firms relating to their involvement with the Consulting Association blacklisting body. The final decision of the hearing resulted in costs being awarded against the companies to cover the full two day hearing, estimated to be in excess of £100,000.
Dinah Rose QC, representing the 600 blacklisted workers in the litigation, told the court that household names such as “Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Balfour Beatty and Carillion had destroyed the lives of thousands of working men and women” and that their continued conduct was designed to “cover their tracks”.
The role of Cullum McAlpine, director of Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd (SRM) and founding Chairman of the Consulting Association blacklisting body came in for particular criticism. Despite a court order requiring full disclosure, not a single email or document to or from Cullum McAlpine, his personal assistant or from David Cochrane final chairman of TCA have been disclosed. The court was even told how in 2011 all hard copies of correspondence between Cullum McAlpine and the Consulting Association had been destroyed. Dinah Rose QC told the court that “Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd has been evasive with conduct intended to conceal the central role of Cullum McAlpine. Cullum McAlpine is a very important man. For the sake of retaining trust in the British legal system, he must not allowed to get away with a cover up.”
The court was also shown evidence that David Cochrane (SRM) chairman of the Consulting Association at the time of its discovery had contacted the blacklisting organisation’s chief executive Ian Kerr instructing him to “ring everyone - destroy all the data”. It was revealed that Cochrane had told Kerr to keep Cullum McAlpine’s name out of the press and large sums of money were transferred to the bank account of Ian Kerr’s daughters in the summer of 2009.
Balfour Beatty was also highlighted when it was revealed that, despite instructions to the contrary, the PC and laptop of Elaine Gallagher, main contact for the company with TCA had both been wiped in April 2013. Trevor Watcham from Balfour Beatty was chairman of the Consulting Association from 2004-5 but his entire email history was deleted in 2011 and not a single document from him has been disclosed. It was also disclosed to the court that an internal Balfour Beatty database containing the names of construction workers who had been involved in union activities had been discovered on the laptop of Gerry Harvey, director of Human Resources, still employed by the company at their Glasgow head office. The comments “not required” and “do not re-employ” appeared next to the names of the union members and the document was found after the discovery of the Consulting Association blacklist was exposed in March 2009.
Lord Justice Supperstone commented “If the firms were professional enough to cover up their actions, did they also cover up more internal databases?”
Edmund Nourse QC representing the McFarlanes defendants said that “no impropriety whatsoever” could be implied over the destruction of the documents, which were merely “unfortunate mistakes”.
Dinah Rose described the McFarlanes position on non disclosure and destruction of evidence as “bonkers” and described an expert witness statement provided by the firms as “disgraceful and intended to mislead”.
Dave Smith from the Blacklist Support Group commented afterwards:
“All of the platitudes and half apologies, all their crocodile tears and claims of rogue managers from the companies over the past six or seven years are clearly nonsense. Documents have been destroyed and Directors of multinational companies are hiding stuff on their laptops. It calls into question all of the promises made to Parliament and the High Court. I am not a lawyer but I would have thought that destroying evidence that would almost certainly have been used in a court case might be considered perverting the course of justice.
The lawyers seemed particularly keen to keep any evidence about Cullum McAlpine being disclosed - this wretch set up and was the funding chairman of the Consulting association. He was intimately involved in its operation over many years. What could he possibly have to hide?”
14th January 2016
Special general meeting:
LRC National Committee Statement
1. The election of Jeremy Corbyn constitutes a political earthquake in Britain. For many years first right wing New Labour, and now a Tory government, which aspires to destroy the welfare state and most of the gains achieved by the labour movement over a century, have dominated the political agenda. Over this time the LRC and the left generally have been in a defensive mode. Jeremy’s election on a huge wave of democratic involvement and debate represents the beginning of a long-awaited radicalisation in British society. As Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union has commented, this represents, “The chance of a lifetime.” We must seize this opportunity to make permanent gains for the cause of socialism.
2. On the left there has been a historic division between those like the LRC who argued that the radicalisation of the working class was likely to be reflected within the Labour Party, the traditional political organisation of the working class, and others who asserted that an alternative to Labour must inevitably be built from outside. The LRC laid down in our statements at Conference after Conference that the radicalisation of working people will at some point attempt to create a mass left wing within Labour. Hence our long-term strategic orientation to the Labour Party. So we feel Jeremy’s election as leader is a vindication of our perspective. But we are of course only at an early stage of what may well prove to be dramatic political developments.
3. Jeremy Corbyn’s election has opened the way for a fight to change the nature of British politics fundamentally. Under all recent governments, neo-liberalism has ruled, unquestioned in the `mainstream’ of all major parties. But to carry forward the earthquake of Corbyn’s election into lasting change will require a momentous struggle both within the labour movement’s structures and a step-change in the industrial and social struggles outside. The fate of both is intrinsically linked, and the LRC needs to be encouraging, and a part of, both.
4. The continuous barrage of hostility faced by Corbyn (and McDonnell and some of their staffers) from the media and some in the PLP is an indication of the urgent need to change the Party. That some in the PLP have shown that they may even be willing to sacrifice their own careers in the drive to bring down Corbyn is one of many indications of the scale of the task. If the internal battle in the Labour Party is not resolved in the left’s favour, then it is unlikely that the struggle outside could be sustained. A defeat for Jeremy in the Party would be a defeat for the left across the board.
5. While participating in, and encouraging, industrial and social struggles, at the present time the LRC has to emphasise the internal battles in the movement. The Labour Party has undergone a huge increase in membership and many of these have joined specifically to support the Corbyn leadership in the battles ahead. We must encourage these new members and supporters to get involved in the structures of the Party at every level, and provide the information and logistical support to enable them to do so. For Corbyn’s election to have a lasting effect, transparent democratic structures need to be reintroduced into the party, such as the restoration of Party conference as the policy-making body, together with accountability of elected representatives at every level. Every effort to do so will get a hostile reaction, but backing off will only give heart to the right.
6. We need to be part of a campaign to win full membership rights for those disbarred or expelled during the campaign for the leadership and since, many of whom have been left in limbo – or worse - since. Without that the party machine will hold the upper hand in arbitrarily deciding who is a member.
7. The support of many unions for Corbyn in his election campaign was welcome and will have significantly contributed to his victory, but we need to be alert to the fact that some General Secretaries only gave their support under pressure and some have been working behind the scenes since his election for a watering down of his stance on several issues. Just as in the Labour Party, we need to work at every level in the unions to encourage participation, democracy and transparency, with policies which can defend workers against the on-going attacks of employers and government. We have to encourage union members and branches to join/affiliate to the Party and not simply leave support to national executives. We welcome the FBU decision to affiliate, and we have to press for other nonaffiliated unions to also affiliate. Within the unions we need to argue for anti-austerity policies and for them to be given teeth through action. We need to insist that opposition to the Trade Union Bill and its draconian attempts to shackle workers, if it becomes law, is taken seriously and leaders are held to their verbal commitment to defy it.
8. For the LRC, the new situation poses new challenges and opportunities for activity. But it also requires a significant modification of our organisational forms if we are to take full advantage of these opportunities. If a mass movement of the left is in formation at present, then it is vital that the LRC is part of that movement. We have no organisational fetish. If the LRC is to be subsumed into a much larger movement that can strive to change society, then we have to be part of it, and would be glad to be so.
9. As agreed at the October NC, we support and will participate in the development of a united movement of the Labour left and beyond. This new movement seems to be crystallising around the banner of Momentum. Momentum is a somewhat amorphous network at present. This is not a criticism. It is an inevitable stage in the creation of a new movement. Momentum has enormous potential. We intend to be part of that movement and to work as hard as we can to make it a big success.
10. We want it to be democratic, with the membership determining its policies and electing its officers. We will build Momentum locally and take part in its national structures, as they are established, as a mass movement of the Labour left and beyond, uniting all those inside the Party and outside who wish to advance the Corbyn agenda and get a Corbyn-led government elected. However, we do not believe that those organisations which stand candidates against Labour should be in Momentum and we will push for this to become Momentum’s national policy. It is not necessary for those standing against Labour to be inside Momentum for Momentum supporters to work with them in campaigns against austerity, war, racism etc.
11. One of the areas where the Tories are increasing their attacks is on local government, with the announcement of a further 50% cut in funding over the next few years. Over the years there has been little resistance to cuts in local government either from the national Labour Party or at a local level by Labour Councils, and often not by the unions whose members are affected by job losses, wage freezes and privatisation. We have to argue for such a campaign to include unions, service users as well as labour Parties and Councillors. At the same time, we continue to argue that real resistance means Labour Councils should refuse to carry through cuts, and will use the selection process to argue for representatives prepared to carry that out.
12. There is no contradiction between the LRC participating fully in the creation of a national network of local and internet-based Momentum groups and maintaining the existence of our own organisation – for the time being. But we must be alive to the prospects opening up before us. We are not sectarians. If the LRC has outlived its usefulness, we will be delighted to participate instead in a mass left wing movement aimed at transforming the Labour Party. Momentum has the possibility to become that movement, but that development is not inevitable. It is still finding its feet. There is at present no democratic structure to their organisation nationally. Some believe that is not necessary – that Momentum can maintain its existence as a network indefinitely. We believe it must develop a democratic structure. Secondly there is the question of the trade unions. Historically the unions gave birth to the Labour Party, and they remain its rock and foundation. Momentum must find a way to involve the trade union movement in its decisions and activities.
13. Momentum may still be in gestation and its practical forms of organisation under discussion. But what is no longer up for debate is the centrality of the Labour Party in the struggle to advance our socialist agenda. As other organisations are realising and the huge surge in Labour membership attests, the Labour Party is the key political place for socialist activists to be right now. And even if sections of the Labour right wing succeed in ousting Jeremy Corbyn as leader as some are currently plotting, it is absolutely impossible in these new conditions that the left will go back to being a marginal force in the Party.
14. Does that mean that Momentum should be purely oriented towards Labour? That would narrow the movement that came behind his campaign unnecessarily. Tens of thousands of people, particularly those involved in local campaigns and social movements, identified immediately with the Corbyn campaign but are not prepared at this stage to become actively involved in the Party. They are an important buttress of support. It would be a bad mistake to disregard these campaigners or impose conditions on their support. They must be involved in support of Corbyn and his objectives by all means possible. But we must also help turn their attention towards the battles that will take place within the Labour Party.
15. This poses a new challenge for the LRC whose original objective, still valid, was to find a more democratic and participatory way of organising the left that was not tainted by bureaucratic and secretive practices. The challenge now is to recognise that the new situation in the Party allows us to move beyond the refinement of LRC policy at its AGMs to working with others, including affiliated unions, to advance the Corbyn agenda in the Party as a whole: making policy at the annual conference of the Party and securing new trade union and other affiliates to the real Labour Party.
16. The LRC therefore needs to change. It needs to transition into a new structure and potentially a new name, to be launched at an event in 2016. Its focus must be to organise a radical, democratic left within the Party and the unions to promote socialist policies and candidates and a democratisation of the party’s structures. As once-affiliated unions that left in the New Labour years consider rejoining the Party, we will look to secure the active political commitment of these organisations.
17. Part of this process of reconstruction is the development of closer coordination with Red Labour, CLPD and other forces on the Labour left working in the same field for shared goals. Our long term aim must be a unified movement of the Labour left championing common goals, campaigns and slates. 18. Accordingly the constitution of the LRC will need to be significantly modified at the 2016 meeting, reshaping our organisation to the new tasks ahead. If – and only if - we do this, our organisation will be well placed to interact with and influence the thousands of potential supporters now joining the Party.
In addition to this statement affiliated organisations have already received proposed constitutional amendments from the LRC NC.
They have the right in turn to move amendments to the statement and the proposed constitutional amendments.
The deadline is February 6th
After that date all the proposed amendments will be published on this website for all members to peruse.
12th January 2016
LRC Special conference 2016:
Saturday 20th February 2016
The left’s success in 2015 was truly extraordinary - Jeremy Corbyn was swept into the Labour leadership, with a massive democratic mandate from Party members and supporters. But although we have won the leadership, we haven’t yet won control of the Party. Hostile elements still abound, in the parliamentary party, the organisational apparatus, and beyond. There can be no place for routinism - the left must raise its game to meet the new tasks we now face.
In these exceptional circumstances, therefore, the LRC’s National Committee has decided to call this Special General Meeting in order to have a focused, structured discussion about how we respond - politically and organisationally - to the new situation. For these purposes the agenda will be based around discussion of a National Committee Statement, and recommendations for structural changes to how the LRC sees its role and operates going forward.
We invite you to the LRC Special Meeting 2016 taking place on
Saturday 20th February at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL, from 10:30 am to ~ 4pm.
Registration opens 10 am.
Speakers to date are: John McDonnell MP, Liz Davies; Ian Hodson, BFAWU; Dave Green (tbc), FBU ; Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper
All national, regional and local affiliates and local groups are entitled to move one resolution to the LRC statement and one to the constitutional changes at this SGM. The maximum wording for an amendment is 250 words, for constitutional amendments100 words.
The final date for the receipt of amendments is February 6th. Affiliates and local groups are encouraged to propose amendments to the statement since it will be the basis of our debate about future strategy. We will advise where duplicate or similar motions are composited.
In order to fully participate at this Conference, you must be a current, paid-up LRC member or Affiliate. So, if your LRC membership and/or affiliation has lapsed, please renew your membership of the LRC now,
Further details of confirmed speakers, timetable, amendments and other conference information will appear on the LRC website over the coming weeks.
(Our constitution may be found at: l-r-c.org.uk/files/Constitution_2013-2014.pdf)
We hope to see you at the LRC Special Conference on 20th February 2016.
29th December 2015
The Floods and the Cuts
By Mick Brooks
Apart from the heartbreak, the present floods have caused a cool £5 billion in damage so far, and the clean-up may end up costing a lot more.
Politicians smugly declare after the waters have risen, “This is a once in a lifetime event.” Well there are places in Britain that have endured floods in 2007, the winter of 2013-4, and again now in December 2015.
The reason for the long term change in climate conditions is global warming, which is in part caused by human activity such as emitting carbon into the atmosphere. We have been warned that this climate change is likely to produce extreme weather events - in Britain most likely in the form of floods.
Every time there is flooding the powers that be assure us that they have learned the lessons. And it seems they never do. Yet the Pitt Review after the 2007 inundation established that we needed a systematic strengthening of our flood defences.
So what was one of the first things the Tory dominated coalition did on taking office in 2010? They cut the flood defence budget by 27% as part of the cuts. By the time of the summer floods of 2012 300 projects, such as plans for the defence of Kendal and Leeds, were in tatters. Now we see the consequences.
The Department of the Environment under Owen Paterson in 2013 also cut its staff working on the problem of how to cope with climate change problems from 38 to 6. How on earth was a climate change denier put in charge in the first place?
It is true that the 2012 floods provoked a panic-stricken surge of £270m in emergency funding from the government. Cameron uses figure this to try to show that the Tories have not let people’s homes and livelihoods go to ruin in the relentless drive to austerity. But the steady, regular spending on the upkeep and improvement of the flood defences is what really matters. That has been ruthlessly driven down as part of the cuts. For the Tories prevention of flooding is much less important than cutting corporation tax for big business and the top rate of income tax for the rich.
The National Audit Office reported in November 2014 that £1 spent on defences will save £10 on flood damage. The Tory cuts are literally penny wise, pound foolish. And the NAO added in their report, “Ad hoc emergency spending is less good value then sustained maintenance.” Of course – prevention is better than cure.
That is precisely what John McDonnell is arguing for. The case for planning our flood defences for the long term, not just reacting when it’s too late, is urgent and unanswerable.
As Innes Thomson, former flood chief at the Environment Agency put it:
“If we were to spend more just maintaining and managing water levels, it would be money well spent…If we spent a slug of money now cleaning up rivers, it would help… I think we are talking about tens of millions of pounds. Now is an opportunity to reconsider where we spend our money.”
The cuts have had other devastating consequences for the work of flood relief. As ever, the firefighters have played a sterling role in rescuing people and their possessions, and taking them to a place of safety. As Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, has pointed out the continuing closure of fire stations has made the rescue work so much more difficult.
The floods are not just a natural disaster. In part they are a consequence of Tory policies.
By the way, a Happy New Year to all our supporters – and keep fighting to kick the Tories out!
26th December 2015
Momentum Statement December 2015
While Momentum has successfully achieved its initial short term goal of capturing the energy and enthusiasm of Jeremy’s campaign, there is still work to be
done to ensure that it meets its longer term aim of developing into a democratic, transparent and participatory organisation.
When Momentum was launched, the website stated, “As it grows, Momentum will develop democratic governance structures at every level of the network.” This will be the top priority for early 2016. We will continue to establish regional coordinating networks, made up of two representatives from local groups, at least one of whom must be a woman. In order to move towards a democratic governance structure at a national level, a National Committee will meet in January 2016. Its initial composition is to be decided by the Launch Reference Group (Clive Lewis MP, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Richard Burgon MP, Kate Osamor MP, Jon Lansman and Cllr. Sam Tarry), and full details will be published on the website.
In order to reflect the diversity of the movement and its grassroots nature, the National Committee will be made up of two representatives from Scotland, Wales and each of the nine English regions, two from each national trade union and representatives of established Labour left organisations. The committee will be gender balanced and will include BAME and disability representation. Initial representation from regions and nations and equalities groups will be based on consultation as prescribed by the reference group, but will be elected within six months.
The National Committee will perform the following functions:
• Engage with supporters to listen to what groups need to be able to organise effectively at a local level.
• In consultation with local groups and supporters, create a democratic, representative structure which facilitates local, regional and national coordination.
• Ensure that Momentum has the capacity to hold free and fair elections for positions on the National Committee.
• Clarify a membership and affiliation structure, and encourage trade union participation at local and regional as well as national level.
• Secure a viable pathway for Momentum to become a financially sustainable organisation.
• Ensure all the necessary organisational processes and procedures are in place (for instance, verification for local groups and complaints procedures).
Full details of the National Committee will be published on the website. Momentum supporters will receive regular updates on the process, and every effort will be made to engage grassroots supporters in the decision-making processes. We are confident that this process will ensure that Momentum will become a sustainable organisation which will continue to facilitate a grassroots movement for real progressive change in our communities.
As Jeremy outlines in his endorsement of Momentum, 2015 has been a remarkable year. But this is just the beginning. Thank you for your continued support and for being part of Momentum.
21st December 2015
After Corbyn’s Victory:
The tasks facing the Labour Left and LRC
Special General Meeting 2016
The left’s success in 2015 was truly extraordinary - Jeremy Corbyn was swept into the Labour leadership, with a massive democratic mandate from Party members and supporters. But although we have won the leadership, we haven’t yet won control of the Party. Hostile elements still abound, in the parliamentary Party, the organisational apparatus, and beyond. There can be no place for routinism - the left must raise its game to meet the new tasks we now face.
In these exceptional circumstances, therefore, the LRC’s National Committee has decided to invoke the clause in our constitution (32) to call a Special General Meeting in order to have a focused, structured discussion about how we respond - politically and organisationally - to the new situation. For these purposes the agenda will be based around discussion of a National Committee statement and recommendations for structural changes to how the LRC sees its role and operates going forward.
National affiliates are entitled to submit and move amendments to the NC Statement. The Conference Arrangements Committee reserves the right to rule on whether the subject of the amendments falls within the remit of the Special General Meeting, or whether they should be referred to the subsequent AGM (to be held later in 2016). Please note that, given the circumstances, the LRC will be under media scrutiny as never before. Amendments thought likely to bring the LRC into disrepute will not be considered to be in order.
The SGM will also consider proposed constitutional changes, including to the structure of elected officerships and committees - with elections therefore deferred until the 2016 AGM. Further details to come as soon as possible
Special General Meeting
Conway Hall, London
February 20th 2016
Register from 10 am.
Meeting ends at 5 pm
21st December 2015
Bring a New Politics into Local Democracy
LRC EC Statement
On the basis of a hasty and highly selective reading of the letter sent to Labour councils by Jeremy Corbyn, together with John McDonnell and Jon Trickett, some right-wingers are claiming that the leadership has endorsed their existing strategy towards implementing the cuts. Likewise some sectarian elements on the left have already begun to accuse the leadership of having made a demoralising climb-down on the issue.
In fact, it is a mistake to see this letter as closing down the debate. Instead, it represents an implicit critique of the failure of the previous leadership – under then Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Hilary Benn – for failing to ensure that Labour councils across the country engaged “community campaigners, council staff who are under duress as a result of Tory spending cuts, local citizens and others in defending local services”. The letter opens up the whole question of introducing a new and more overtly political approach instead.
It is simply a matter of fact that in the absence of such a mass campaign any attempt to introduce an illegal budget would be liable to be overturned, with councillors debarred from office and spending decisions taken over by the council officers or the Secretary of State. But the letter precisely goes on to advocate building such a mass campaign. The role of the LRC and the Labour left is to pressure our local councils through CLPs and wider campaigning groups including Momentum, to make sure that the call for such a mass campaign is made into a reality, and develops to an extent which makes a bolder course of action possible.
The election of a radical left leadership, with an overwhelming mandate from members of supporters of the Party, has changed the situation which the LRC faces. We are now not only defending the rights of individual councillors to raise the need for no-cuts budgets, and supporting them in the face of disciplinary measures – which we will continue to do. Rather, we now have the chance to develop and implement a strategy for the whole of Labour’s local government base to resist the cuts in practice. But only by mobilising significant sections of our communities will this become a practical option.
In no sense should the existing legal situation be used as an excuse to implement Tory cuts. If Labour’s new commitment to being an “anti-austerity” party is to be credible, we need to be demonstrating at a local level that we are willing in practice to challenge the imposition of these cuts. It does not automatically follow that setting a legal budget means simply passing on the cuts to our communities. Since they have a disproportionate impact on women, disabled people and minority ethnic communities, cuts which would further widen existing inequalities must not be passed on. The LRC calls on councils to exhaust all available avenues under the law, including extensive drawing-down of reserves and use of prudential borrowing powers, to forestall the latest round of cuts while an effective mass campaign of resistance is built.
In the spirit of the decision to respect the genuine difference between MPs by giving them a free vote over the bombing of Syria, we also call for a radical overhaul of the Councillors’ Contract to ensure that individual councillors have the freedom to express their views over issues much closer to home. If the Party can relax the whip on issues of life and death, surely it might be relaxed on questions like cuts to essential social care?
At the same time we recognise the dangers of council leaders and officers interpreting the leadership’s letter as a green light for continuing with the cuts. Some Labour councillors appear to need reminding that they are political representatives and not just competent and compassionate administrators. If Labour fails to respond to the challenge of building a mass campaign of resistance to Tory-driven austerity at a local level, the whole question of our credibility as an “anti-austerity” party will be undermined. We will look like the kind of party who makes promises in opposition but fails to deliver on them in power. Worse, if we fail to build a mass campaign against these Tory cuts, we will have failed to create the political basis in public opinion for throwing out this government
and getting a radical Corbyn-led Labour government elected.
We cannot stress enough the urgency of building a broad, united campaign against the Tory cuts which actively mobilises our communities behind mass resistance. This would open up new possibilities, including expanding and democratising the whole budget-setting process by introducing forms of community participation and deliberation over the needs of their own communities. This is not the end of the debate, it’s only the beginning. It’s high time that Labour brought a new politics into local democracy.
14th December 2015
‘Hope’ against the cuts
This is a very sharp and political play. It shows the impossible position that Labour councils are being pushed into because of the cuts. It is a play, not a political pamphlet, and ends on a bleakly pessimistic note as the commissioners take over the democratically elected council’s affairs. This should be food for thought for us all. How do we stop this happening? How do we begin a national campaign against the cuts?
‘Hope’ , a play Reviewed by Stuart King
The day before I saw Hope, a new play about a council making deep cuts in services, I read a profile piece in the Guardian on the labour leader of Newcastle Council, Nick Forbes. He talked in the interview about “the impossible service cuts” the council faced because of the governments funding cuts.
He said in just one area, social care, Whitehall grants had been cut by 32% while demand had increased by 40%. Having cut £37 million from the budget last year, Newcastle face a £38 million cut this year, with a further £90 million cuts in the pipeline over the following three years! Little wonder that Forbes predicts social unrest with many public services becoming “completely untenable” in the years ahead. And Newcastle is not alone, the National Audit Office has recently predicted that more than half the councils in England are at risk of financial failure in the next five years.
Jack Thorne’s play, set in a northern English town, opens with the local Labour council leaders sitting down facing just such a scenario. But as with Nick Forbes it never enters the heads of Hillary, the council leader, or her deputy Mark, that there is any alternative to implementing the cuts. They settle down to picking the areas; libraries, street lighting, the swimming pool, museum, centres for the disabled, which they will cut or close completely.
But their plans quickly come unstuck. The proposal to shut the social centre for the disabled, run by Mark’s ex-wife Gina, is leaked and all hell breaks loose. An imaginative campaign to prevent the closure hits the national headlines, thousands sign a petition against it and Miliband is on the phone telling the council they are “polluting Labour’s message” for the election.
So they do what every council does when faced with serious resistance in one area, they retreat on the disabled centre and instead cut two Sure Start Centres in a predominantly Pakistani and Bangladeshi area of the borough. The resulting row and protests sees clashes between the EDL and the local protesting Asian community. A Pakistani shopkeeper is stabbed to death late at night. “Were the perpetrators white – EDL?” asks Mark. “We don’t know” replies Sarwan an Asian councillor, “it was where we had turned the lights off.”
The play follows the characters through both their political and personal crises. Mark, played by The Thick Of It actor Paul Higgins, wants to be “a good man” and struggles with his alcoholism, his precociously intelligent son and his sometime partner who is also a councillor and daughter of the ex-leader. The play sometimes feels like a sit-com and makes you wonder why TV hasn’t taken up the challenge of a council based sit-com, there is plenty of black comedy there for the taking.
The plot takes a dramatic turn when the councillors, pressed by Sarwan, revolt and decide to refuse to set a budget, provoking the government to send in an administrator. Sarwan is convincing when pointing out the class nature of the Tory-Lib Dem cuts “Hart council in Hampshire, the least deprived local authority – net loss of these cuts £28 per person – while in Liverpool district B, the most deprived local authority – net loss £807 per person. How does that make you not want to tear some ones throat out?” Indeed, because this is not just a script but real figures.
While this play is not a political drama of the standard of a David Hare, it certainly is a play of the moment, something the Royal Court Theatre is particularly good at, encouraging young writers and multi ethnic casts, and pulling in young audiences absent in most West End theatres.
But don’t get your hopes up for a happy ending. These councillors turn out to be as useless in opposition as they were in power. Incapable of mobilising the town and obsessed with returning to “business as normal”. But should we expect anything different? Isn’t this the reality of the Labour Party today.
“Hope”, by Jack Thorne , runs at the Royal Court, London, from 26 November to January 10th
9th December 2015
Walthamstow: what really happened
By Sue Wheat
Copied from Red Pepper magazine
I just want to set the record straight for anyone reading or listening to the news about Walthamstow and Stella Creasy, which as far as I can tell is totally untrue.
On Tuesday a local resident Sophie Bolt and Rev Steven Saxby organised a family vigil, which myself and others helped to publicise quickly on social media. No one asked me to do it, I just did it.
It was a beautiful, calm meet-up of for anyone who wanted to show our MP Stella Creasy that we wanted her to vote NO on air strikes in Syria. We met at the Queen’s Road mosque with candles in jam jars and walked quietly to Stella’s Labour office on Orford Road, where there were speeches by religious and community leaders.
It was a beautiful, community, inspiring family event of people trying to make their voices heard against the airstrikes and trying to influence Stella, even though we knew she was in Westminster.
We took post-it notes and thought it would be powerful to write messages of peace and stick them on the office window. It looked beautiful and powerful.
The next day we realised someone had put up a Facebook post with a picture of the start of the vigil, which was outside the mosque. You can see the mosque on the right if you zoom in, but mostly it’s just the houses next to it. He claimed we were outside Stella’s house and said something incendiary about her not having children to worry about. (His exact post was: ‘outside [her] house… apparently she has still to make up her mind – and she has no children to upset’.) He managed to get some police in the pic which made it look like a demo and it was dark and blurry. In fact the very low police presence were very helpful and friendly throughout.
Then we went to her office about half a mile away. There were about 200 people including children and various community and religious leaders spoke – it was a very inspiring peace rally. The police were laid-back and friendly there was no intrusive police presence.
Now for the most worrying thing: the picture and Facebook post was found by the Independent newspaper and used in an article. This started off a mass media misinformation story about constituents bullying Stella. It was then picked up by LBC radio, the Standard and many other media and went viral on social media. I tried to counteract lots of it, especially with journalists following up the story.
When I realised that the Independent had used his picture and post to create their story stating Stella was targeted I contacted the journalist but she wouldn’t retract it. Then it went all over the world. I was sobbing with frustration. Please share this version of events.
There may of course be things I don’t know that happened separate to the vigil. All I know is the vigil was peaceful and non-threatening and the thousands of Facebook posts I’ve seen from Walthamstow residents are respectful but utterly desperate to share their views with Stella to vote NO. That is democracy – that is what she asked for. That is not bullying.
What a stressful few days. Peace. And do share.
Update – Rev Steven Saxby, one of the organisers of the vigil, adds:
“This week I took part in a vigil with a wide section of the local community. I am deeply saddened by the misinformation about the vigil which has circulated in the media, and grateful to Sue Wheat for correcting the misreporting of the vigil.
I am also surprised that some in the party appear to be overly influenced by irresponsible coverage in the media, such as the Mail’s description of the peaceful people on our vigil being called ‘Hard-left hate mobs’ and the Mirror stating ‘Vicars, imams and net trolls target MPs’.
I am shocked by Tom Watson’s statement on Radio 4 today that ‘any Labour members on that demo should be removed from the party’.
At the same time as I condemn intimidation of MPs or their staff, I reiterate that the vigil was not intimidation, and condemn those who seek to portray democratic, peaceful actions as such. This is also is a form of intimidation.
For my part, I shall not be intimidated into not speaking on issues about which I am passionate and alongside others within and beyond the Labour Party.
I refute the erroneous allegations about me and about our peaceful vigil, and look forward to continuing to support Stella Creasy as MP for Walthamstow, and the campaigns to elect Sadiq Khan as mayor and Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister.”
9th December 2015
Momentum; where we stand
Statement from the Momentum Facebook page on December 8th
It has always been our intention to be an outward facing group. That’s entirely in keeping with the Corbyn leadership campaign over the summer, which reached out to people who had become disillusioned with mainstream politics and the lack of a coherent alternative on the left.
Momentum sprang out of a desire to help empower people previously not politicised, to encourage those people to engage in debate and to organise on issues which affect them in their communities. So we think that it’s right for Momentum to be seeking to work with coalitions and campaigning groups outside the Labour Party, nationally and locally.
What we will not allow, however, and we don’t think our supporters will accept, is for our grassroots network to be used as a vehicle for other groups to push their party agendas, which have for decades been set against the Labour Party and those members who have worked hard to get us to this position.
We will work with other groups and campaigns, but we cannot allow Momentum to be used as a vehicle for other parties. So if you are a member of the Socialist Party, or the SWP for instance, you cannot be involved in decision making within Momentum.
4th December 2015
Oldham West and Royton Victory!
Well done to all those who worked towards the Labour victory in the byelection
3rd December 2015
Voted to Bomb Syria: Is Your MP Here?
Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West)
Alan Campbell (Tynemouth)
Alan Johnson (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle)
Alison McGovern (Wirral South)
Angela Eagle (Wallasey)
Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge)
Ann Coffey (Stockport)
Anna Turley (Redcar)
Ben Bradshaw (Exeter)
Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South)
Caroline Flint (Don Valley)
Chris Bryant (Rhondda)
Chris Leslie (Nottingham East)
Chuka Umunna (Streatham)
Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East)
Conor McGinn (St Helens North)
Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central)
Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East)
Frank Field (Birkenhead)
Gareth Thomas (Harrow West)
Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West)
George Howarth (Knowsley)
Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
Gloria De Piero (Ashfield)
Graham Jones (Hyndburn)
Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham)
Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East)
Helen Jones (Warrington North)
Hilary Benn (Leeds Central)
Holly Lynch (Halifax)
Ian Austin (Dudley North)
Jamie Reed (Copeland)
Jenny Chapman (Darlington)
Jim Dowd (Lewisham West and Penge)
Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse)
Joan Ryan (Enfield North)
John Spellar (Warley)
John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness)
Keith Vaz (Leicester East)
Kevan Jones (North Durham)
Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)
Liz Kendall (Leicester West)
Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)
Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree)
Lucy Powell (Manchester Central)
Margaret Beckett (Derby South)
Margaret Hodge (Barking)
Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood)
Mary Creagh (Wakefield)
Michael Dugher (Barnsley East)
Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark)
Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East)
Peter Kyle (Hove)
Phil Wilson (Sedgefield)
Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North)
Simon Danczuk (Rochdale)
Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden)
Stella Creasy (Walthamstow)
Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth)
Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South)
Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland)
Tom Watson (West Bromwich East)
Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central)
Vernon Coaker (Gedling)
Wayne David (Caerphilly)
Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford)
28th November 2015
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, responding to the Prime Minister’s statement on Syria:
“I would like to thank the Prime Minister for providing an advance copy of his remarks. After the despicable and horrific attacks in Paris a fortnight ago the whole House will, I’m sure, agree that our first priority must be the security of Britain and the safety of the British people.
“So when we consider the Prime Minister’s case for military action in Syria, the issue of whether what he proposes strengthens - or undermines - our national security must be front and centre stage.
“There is no doubt that the so-called Islamic State group has imposed a reign of terror on millions in Iraq, Syria and Libya. All that ISIS stands for and does is contrary to everything those of us on these benches have struggled for over generations.
“And there is no doubt that it poses a threat to our own people.
“The question must now be whether extending the UK bombing from Iraq to Syria is likely to reduce, or increase, that threat and whether it will counter, or spread, the terror campaign ISIS is waging in the Middle East.
“With that in mind, I would like to put seven questions to the Prime Minister.
“First, does the Prime Minister believe that extending air strikes to Syria - which is already being bombed by the US, France, Russia and other powers - will make a significant military impact on a campaign which has so far seen ISIS gain, as well as lose, territory?
“Does he expect it will be a war-winning strategy? And why does he think other members of the original coalition - including the Gulf States, Canada and Australia - have halted their participation?
“Second, is the Prime Minister’s view that the air campaign against ISIS-held areas can be successful without ground forces?
“If not, does he believe that Kurdish forces or the relatively marginal and remote Free Syrian Army would be in a position to take back ISIS-held territory if the air campaign were successful?
“Is it not more likely that other stronger jihadist and radical Salafist forces would take over?
“Third, without credible or acceptable ground forces, isn’t the logic of an intensified air campaign mission creep and western boots on the ground? Can he today rule out the deployment of British ground forces to Syria?
“Fourth, does the Prime Minister believe that UN security council resolution 2249 gives “clear and unambiguous authorisation” for UK air strikes?
“And what coordinated action with other UN member states has there been under the terms of the resolution to cut off funding, oil revenues and arms supplies from ISIS in the territory it currently holds?
“And in the absence of any coordinated UN military or diplomatic strategy, does he believe that more military forces over Syria could increase the risks of dangerous incidents, such as the shooting down of a Russian military aircraft by Turkish forces this week?
“Fifth, how does the Prime Minister think an extension of UK bombing would contribute to a comprehensive negotiated political settlement of the Syrian civil war, which is widely believed to be the only way to ensure the defeat of ISIS in the country?
“Sixth, what assessment has the Prime Minister been given about the likely impact of British air strikes in Syria on the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK?
“And what impact does he believe an intensified air campaign will have on civilian casualties in ISIS-held Syrian territory and the wider Syrian refugee crisis?
“Finally, in the light of the record of western military interventions in recent years, including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya does the Prime Minister accept that UK bombing of Syria could risk more of what President Obama called ‘unintended consequences’ – and that a lasting defeat of ISIS can only be secured by Syrians and forces from within the region?”
27th November 2015
Our Challenge is our Opportunity!
THE JOHN MCDONNELL COLUMN IN NOVEMBER’S LABOUR BRIEFING
I RECENTLY GAVE A SPEECH AT IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON in which I outlined Labour’s New Economic plan – our long term and sustainable alternative to the Conservatives’ narrow austerity dogma, which risks placing the future health of our economy in jeopardy. The state of the economy, the changing world of work, and the new technologies available to us, caused me to reflect on my own experiences of work and the technological revolution of the time.
Looking back at it now, I think about the possibilities available to us then. There were skilled jobs available for the millions who, like me, didn’t go straight to university. There was generous access to courses at local FE colleges and free education for those who did go to university. On modest means, a young person could buy a house.
After all the advances we have made, I find it frankly amazing that so many things that we took for granted back then are likely to be unattainable for future generations. Wages for the under-30s have been decimated since the financial crisis, and are still 10% below their 2010 level.
Indeed, this government seems engaged in an all-out assault on the young. Not only is “generation rent” being frozen out of the housing market, with home ownership in many parts of the country out of the reach of the millions whose parents are unable to help with a deposit, the government is now restricting Housing Benefit for young people. Meanwhile, social housing is almost a distant memory, and the insecurity of private renting means upheaval and uncertainty for a majority.
We live in a society increasingly characterised by instability, insecurity and a pervasive sense of flux. It was this new and, in many ways, inimical landscape that formed the backdrop to Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader. Jeremy was elected leader of the Labour Party by an overwhelming majority of members and supporters on the basis of a programme that rested on three pillars.
First, a New Politics, the creation of a more democratic, engaging and kinder politics in both the Labour Party and society.
Second, a New Economics, laying the economic foundations for a prosperous, fairer and sustainable society.
Third, a New Relationship with the World, based upon a foreign policy promoting mutual co-operation, conflict prevention and resolution rather than military aggression.
The good society that I think most of us envisage is one that is free, democratic, prosperous, environmentally sustainable, safe and secure, and based upon the values of fairness, equality and social justice. It is a society in which everybody has the ability to develop their talents and enjoyment of life to the full. Given the travails of life in Tory Britain, it is not surprising that this vision had such broad appeal. But how do we realise it? This is the question that I, and the Labour Party, have to answer.
Unlike the Tories, a Labour government would not fall into the trap of short-termism. We would meet the challenges of the future by harnessing the technological opportunities of the present. The UK has so much untapped potential. At the moment we are failing to invest in the skills and technologies that will create the secure, high-wage, productive economy that we want and need if we are to prosper in the long term.
Meeting the challenges of the future requires a state that can think and act strategically. We need to ensure that we exploit the opportunities available to us in a way that creates, and does not restrict, opportunities for workers. To facilitate this, we must re-establish a system of worker participation in management, and rethink our corporate tax regime to give businesses an incentive to invest wisely. A Labour government would also work to meet the EU target of spending 3% of GDP on Research and Development by 2030.
Modern Britain can be a challenging place. But a challenge is also an opportunity. If we are to create the prosperous and fair society we all wish to see, it is an opportunity we must have the courage to grasp.
John McDonnell is MP for Hayes and Harlington and Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and of the Labour Representation Committee.
Labour Briefing is the magazine of the LRC
26th November 2015
Labour Briefing Readers’ Meeting
Saturday 12 December
1pm – 5pm
Marchmont Street Community Centre
62 Marchmont St, London WC1N 1AB
(5 minutes’ walk from Kings Cross/Euston/Russell Square Stations)
Speakers include Liz Davies
The political situation has been transformed unrecognisably in the last few months. The Tories continue their austerity offensive, but the Labour Party has doubled in size and long standing Labour Briefing contributors are now in the leadership of the Party. At the same time the Labour leadership is facing a concerted effort to undermine them from the right wing press and from the right of the Party.
If you are a Labour Briefing supporter, if you’re one of Labour’s new members or supporters, or if you’ve rejoined the Party after some time away, we’d like to hear from you. What do you want from the magazine? How can we improve and grow? We need to be told what we’re doing well, and what we’re doing not so well! What do you think should be happening on the Labour left?
From the beginning Briefing has stood for an inclusive left – we argued for feminism, anti-racism, and LGBT solidarity at a time when there was less of a consensus around those issues than now. We’ve always stood for a politics that is not narrow or sectarian, and which is bottom-up rather than imposed by committee. Because of this, we think it’s important that the magazine ‘belongs’ to the readers, that you get to decide what you need it to do to support your activism. This is why we’d like you to take seriously the invitation to come to the meeting. Hope to see you there.
Labour Briefing is the magazine of the LRC.
26th November 2015
PROTEST - DON’T BOMB SYRIA -
SATURDAY 28 NOVEMBER -
NATIONAL DAY OF ANTI-WAR ACTION
The London protest against the bombing of Syria will take place outside Downing Street from 12-2pm this Saturday 28 November.
There are numerous anti-war protests being organised up and down the country. Please get involved where you can.
The protests have been organised by the Stop the War Coalition
Visit their website to check out a protest near you: http://www.stopwar.org.uk/
23rd November 2015
UK participation in military action in Syria
This [Branch / CLP] expresses our condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Paris for which there can be no justification, and sends condolences to the victims and their families.
We know of no evidence that military intervention has prevented the spread of terrorism, but it has contributed to the growing refugee crisis across Europe today.
We note the findings of the Survation opinion poll carried out in the aftermath of the Paris attacks in which only 18% of respondents believed military strikes against Isil made the UK more safe, and 56% believed they made the UK less safe.
We concur with the policy on Syria overwhelmingly adopted at this year’s Labour Party conference, which laid down four strict conditions to be met by the international community before Labour would support UK participation in military action:
• ‘Clear and unambiguous authorisation for such a bombing campaign from the United Nations’;
• ‘a comprehensive Europe-wide plan is in place to provide humanitarian assistance to the increased number of refugees that even more widespread bombing can be expected to lead to’;
• assurances that ‘such bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with Isil-Daesh’; and
• ‘military action to be subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to bring the Syrian civil war to an end’.
We are aware of continued attempts by David Cameron to seek House of Commons support for UK participation in air strikes on Syria, without any of the above conditions being met. We are also aware that had the bombing campaign advocated by the British government in 2013 had been carried out, Isil-Daesh forces might now be in control of far more Syrian territory.
We applaud the Parliamentary Labour Party of 2013 for voting against Syrian air strikes, and call on today’s PLP to continue to oppose UK participation in a bombing campaign against Syria and to seek a negotiated and peaceful solution to the crises in the Middle East.
This resolution has been drafted by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy
16th November 2015
LRC 500 CLUB
The LRC now needs to raise a regular income.
The idea is tried and tested, and simplicity itself.
Supporters contribute a small fixed amount every month.
Half is paid in prizes to the supporters and the rest helps our work.
If supporters took 500 entries at £2, then we are £500 a month better off.
And those supporters win a total of £6,000 every year.
16th November 2015
Scotland: Blacklisted activists demand action from MSPs
Blacklisted activists Dave Smith and Ellenor Hutson spoke at a meeting inside the Holyrood parliament calling on MSPs to take action over the issue of blacklisting and the activities of undercover police officers in Scotland. A large number of MSPs were present including Elaine Smith, deputy speaker of the Scottish parliament.
Ellenor Hutson, an environmental activist from Glasgow who was blacklisted by the notorious Consulting Association, told the MSPs that she had been spied on by a number of undercover police officers over many years. She relayed the story of those other women activists who had been deceived into having long term sexual relationships with the officers, who cynically used the relationships as a way of ingratiating themselves within campaigns. Ellenor told how some of the women activists have described this as “being raped by the state”.
Ellenor explained how during the G8 Gleneagles summit in 2005, she had worked alongside the undercover police officer Mark Kennedy who, while a serving officer, was one of the central organisers of the anti-globalisation protests. He was the Transport Coordinator, which involved hiring flatbed lorries and minibuses to transport materials and people - a key logistical role during the summit protests.
Dave Smith, secretary of Blacklist Support Group (BSG) and co-author of the book ‘Blacklisted’, also spoke at the meeting. He told how undercover police officers had posed as construction workers, even infiltrating trade unions. Smith, alongside other blacklisted workers and the Blacklist Support Group. have been granted ‘core participant’ status in the Pitchford public inquiry into undercover policing that has just opened. However, the remit for the public inquiry set up by the Home Secretary, Theresa May specifically limits the inquiry to the activities of undercover policing in “England and Wales”, so the activities of the police officers who played leading roles in the protests at Gleneagles and who may have spied on trade unions in Scotland would be excluded from the investigation.
Smith & Hutson both called for a full public inquiry into the role of undercover police operating in Scotland - either by the Scottish government writing to Lord Pitchford and asking him to extend the geographical scope of his inquiry or else by setting up a separate inquiry.
Dave Smith also called on the Scottish government and other public authorities across not just Scotland but the whole UK to implement the proposal of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting and to ban blacklisting firms from publicly funded contracts. Smith explained how the major construction firms have now fully admitted their guilt and made a public apology in the High Court. Smith told MSPs, “Blacklisted workers don’t want sympathy from politicians: we’re drowning in sympathy. What we need is action, not just fine words”
The meeting was hosted by UNITE the Union with, Neil Findlay MSP for the Lothians also speaking. Neil Findlay MSP commented after the meeting:
‘This was an excellent and shocking event at the Scottish Parliament. The meeting heard from two people whose lives have been directly affected by being put on a blacklist. To hear how Dave Smith was prevented from earning a living because of his trade union activity and for questioning health and safety practices and welfare on construction sites was truly scandalous. Likewise to hear from Ellenor how she was placed on a blacklist for the ‘heinous crime’ of caring about our environment, despite having never worked on a construction site, was remarkable.’
‘What compounded the shocking nature of Dave and Ellenor’s testimonies was their description of the role played by undercover Police. The speakers explained the central role played by the police in compiling names and passing them on to construction companies. Ellenor described how she was an activist alongside Mark Kennedy, who it is now known was an undercover policeman pretending to be an activist. This collusion needs investigating and I and others will be calling for an inquiry.’
Report provided by the Blacklist Support Group.
8th November 2015
Andrew Fisher’s suspension isn’t about rule-breaking
– it’s about factional struggle
By Phil Burton-Cartledge
So a couple of Labour MPs have made complaints against Andrew Fisher, Jeremy’s head of policy, and the NEC have moved to suspend him. His crime? Among other things, publishing a tweet advocating a vote for our anarchist friends Class War over Labour’s Emily Benn in Croydon South almost a year prior to the general election. Not the political crime of the century by any means, but rules are rules. Or are they?
As with all bureaucratic organisations, there are rules covering pretty much every element of the operation. And the Labour Party is no different. There are rules for elections. Rules for members. Rules for affiliates. Rules specifying party structures. Where there are grey areas are rules for governing ‘them’, and rules for governing ‘us’. So it is that if you’re a powerful figure, rules can be flouted with seeming impunity.
The clutch of Labour MPs, for instance, who quietly agitated against Ken Livingstone in the 2012 London mayoral elections – no action. The repeated public attacks by MPs on Ed Miliband – no action. The contempt for the party ‘simple’ Simon Danczuk fills his Mail on Sunday column each week – no action. The uppity anti-austerity campaigner who sent unwise and politically foolish tweets? Throw the bloody book at him.
Let’s be clear here. This isn’t about rules and rule breaking. This is about factional struggle. There are elements of the Parliamentary Labour Party incapable of reconciling themselves to the situation they now find themselves in. They know that a frontal assault on Jeremy’s office is suicidal and means curtains for their careers, so they’re taking up position and sniping at the leader’s appointments. John McDonnell, Seumas Milne, Andrew Fisher, if they can be picked off the leader will remain permanently weak vis a vis the PLP, and therefore less able to get his agenda and – possibly – changes to party structures through. And it will encourage them too.
This week’s PLP elections give the 4.5%ers a weight entirely out of proportion to their real support in the party. They will also take heart from the selection of Jim McMahon for the Oldham West by-election. Jim was able to romp home in a CLP that had returned a key leftwing MP for 45 years. If a ‘moderate’ can win Michael Meacher’s old stomping ground, then perhaps there’s a wider appetite in the party for their brand of politics than they first thought.
Nevertheless what I find frustrating, if not appalling, is the timing of all this. The government are lurching from crisis to crisis at the moment. Their difficulties are our opportunity, and yet the selfish behaviour of idiot trouble makers divert time and energy away from making an effective opposition. Perhaps that’s the whole point. The last thing they want is Jeremy to turn that polling deficit into a lead, for Labour under his leadership to start appearing successful.
This article first appeared in Left Futures.
7th November 2015
Andrew Fisher Suspended
The LRC is saddened and disappointed by Labour’s decision to suspend former LRC joint Secretary, Andrew Fisher, from Party membership. Andrew has always been fully in support of the aims and values of the Labour Party. The LRC has every confidence in Andrew’s ability to play a valuable role in providing policy advice to Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and the wider front-bench team. The LRC is concerned that the complaints against Andrew appear to be politically motivated by those in the Party who have opposed Jeremy’s leadership. The LRC stands by Andrew, as it does Jeremy as Labour Leader, and calls for the lifting of Andrew’s suspension.
This statement has been amended in minor ways from the version rushed out a couple of days ago. This version makes it clear that the LRC calls for the lifting of Andrew Fisher’s suspension.
4th November 2015
ORGANISATION OF THE LEFT
Resolution Passed by the LRC NC in October 2015
1) We resolve to continue to build the LRC nationally and locally, pending the creation of a united organisation of the labour left and beyond.
2) We support and will participate in the development of a united organisation of the Labour left and beyond.
3) We argue for any new organisation of the Labour left and beyond to be democratic, with the membership determining policies and electing any officers, in order to recruit the thousands of volunteers and supporters involved in Jeremy’s leadership campaign. We also urge that the new organisation should organise at all levels in the Party, but particularly at CLP level.
4) Any decision on the future suspension of the LRC depends on progress in creating such a united organisation of the left and will be the decision of our members.
5) Meanwhile the LRC will open up direct discussion with other Labour left groups with a view to persuading them of the need for one united organisation of the Labour left. In the meantime we argue strongly that we should work together and organise events, one of which should be how to win policy in the Party.
6) We encourage LRC members to participate fully in creating organisations of Corbyn supporters, both locally and online.
7) We encourage the Labour left and those beyond to participate outside the party (such as in strikes, protests, demonstrations etc.) with others sympathetic to Corbyn’s policies, to pursue policy within the trade unions to support Corbyn’s policies, such as scrapping Trident and opposition to austerity.
Comments on the Resolution
The election of Jeremy Corbyn is part of a political earthquake in Britain. For many years first right wing New Labour, and now a Tory government which aspires to destroy the welfare state and most of the gains achieved by the labour movement over a century, have dominated the political agenda. Over this time the LRC and the left generally have been in a defensive mode.
Jeremy’s election on a huge wave of democratic involvement and debate represents the beginning of a long-awaited radicalisation in British society. As Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union has commented, this represents, “The chance of a lifetime.” We must seize this opportunity to make permanent gains for the cause of socialism.
On the left there has been a historic division between those like the LRC who argued that the radicalisation of the working class was bound to be reflected within the Labour Party, the traditional political organisation of the working class, and others who asserted that an alternative to Labour must be built from outside. The LRC has defended the position at Conference after Conference of our organisation that the radicalisation of working people will at some point create a mass left wing within Labour. For us this was a basic principle. This is now coming to pass.
So we feel Jeremy’s election as leader is a vindication of our perspective. But we are of course only at an early stage of what may well prove to be dramatic political developments. The situation is very fluid and LRC members are constantly discussing how things might turn out. The resolution above was passed last month in a fast-changing political environment.
If a mass movement of the left is in formation at present, then it is vital that the LRC is part of that movement. We have no organisational fetish. If the LRC is to be subsumed into a much larger movement that can strive to change society, then we have to be part of it, and would be glad to be so.
This new movement seems to be crystallising around the banner of Momentum. Momentum is a somewhat amorphous network at present. This is not a criticism. It is an inevitable stage in the creation of a new movement. Momentum has enormous potential. We intend to be part of that movement and to work as hard as we can to make it a big success.
There is no contradiction between the LRC participating fully in the creation of a national network of local and internet-based Momentum groups and maintaining the existence of our own organisation – for the time being. But we must be alive to the prospects opening up before us. We are not sectarians. If the LRC has outlived its usefulness, we will be delighted to participate instead in a mass left wing movement aimed at transforming the Labour Party and society.
Momentum has the possibility to become that movement, but that development is not inevitable. It is still finding its feet. There is at present no democratic structure to their organisation nationally.
Some believe that is not necessary – that Momentum can maintain its existence as a network indefinitely. We believe it must develop a democratic structure. That means it must have a determinate membership and a way of members expressing their views by voting on policy.
Secondly there is the question of the trade unions. Historically the unions gave birth to the Labour Party, and they remain its rock and foundation. Momentum must find a way to involve the trade union movement in its decisions and activities.
This vast elemental change in the face of British politics was triggered by Jeremy’s decision to stand as leader. It was an entirely unexpected trigger. He was seen as unlikely to get enough nominations to stand and then given no chance of winning. Now that he is leader he is surrounded by difficulties and by those who are determined to sabotage his project for change. Barely 20 of more than 200 Labour MPs support him as leader. Some lose no opportunity to run to the capitalist press and denigrate his leadership. In doing so they are of course running down the Party as a whole and downgrading the chances of every candidate in the land that stands under its banner.
They don’t care. Their loyalty is purely to their own careers, which they see potentially threatened by a mass influx of Corbyn supporters into the local Labour Parties. Jeremy has preached conciliation and the need for democratic debate on policy, in contrast to the top-down dictatorship practiced by New Labour, but all his opponents show in return is disloyalty. Jeremy is also hamstrung by the unreformed Party bureaucracy and the undemocratic policy-making structures put in place during the Blair years.
The movement embodied in Momentum that we see emerging is intended to continue and carry through the Corbyn project, a top to bottom renewal of a Labour Party that was emptied out by the betrayals and disappointments of the New Labour years. Jeremy cannot carry through the necessary reforms on his own. He is hanging on, hoping for a mass influx of members that will shift the balance of forces within the Party decisively in favour of change. Thus the movement to defend Jeremy must be one that will defend and strengthen his position within the Labour Party.
Does that mean that Momentum should be purely oriented towards Labour? That would narrow the movement that came behind Jeremy’s campaign unnecessarily. Tens of thousands of people, particularly those involved in local campaigns and social movements, identified immediately with the Corbyn campaign but are not prepared at this stage to become actively involved in the Party. They are an important buttress of support for Jeremy. It would be a serious mistake to disregard these campaigners or impose conditions on their support. They must be involved in support of Jeremy and his objectives by all means possible. But the task of Momentum must be to turn the attention of their supporters towards the battles that will take place within the Labour Party.
Neither the LRC nor anyone else has the power to prohibit people from joining in the Momentum movement which is involving activists, and people completely new to political involvement. Nor would we want to do so. Momentum has also been approached by groups such as the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) who want to get involved. TUSC stands candidates against Labour in elections. Next May there will be local and mayoral elections, and elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. It is quite possible that Labour will not do well in all these elections – for all manner of local and exceptional reasons that have nothing to do with the stance of Jeremy as Party leader. The right wing opposition within the Party have made it quite clear that this will provide the first excuse for a serious assault upon his leadership. In that situation we have to say that standing candidates against Labour and taking votes from the Party is not supporting Jeremy and his objectives. It is giving aid and comfort to his enemies.
We in the LRC put the interests of the movement above everything. We shall continue to monitor developments closely and see how we can intervene most effectively. We live in inspiring times. Let us make sure we don’t let slip, “The chance of a lifetime.”
3rd November 2015
We have Momentum!
Jon Lansman reports on the launch of a new movement
to advance Jeremy Corbyn’s agenda both within the Labour Party and beyond.
When Jeremy Corbyn entered the race to be Labour’s leader, we didn’t expect to win. From the outset we planned to build a new movement that would campaign for the policies and values Jeremy supported, which we believed were necessary for Labour’s survival as an alternative to the Tories, long after the contest was over. We also hoped to use the campaign to build up a database to organise the left more effectively in future.
We’ve now launched Momentum: the social movement that Jeremy promised in his campaign for a new politics, for peace, justice and equality. Within hours of its launch, we had 12,000 likes on Facebook and over 7,000 Twitter follows.
Momentum will campaign for Labour victories in 2016‘s elections. It will back Labour’s campaign to register voters to minimise the effect of the Tories’ immoral, self-interested attempt to gerrymander the forthcoming boundary commission.
It will campaign in communities and workplaces against evictions and for rent controls and against benefit caps. It will fight alongside trade unions and also campaign inside the Labour Party to make it the truly democratic organisation we need, rooted in communities and workplaces.
In the launch email, signatories Richard Burgon, Katy Clark, Clive Lewis, Becky Long-Bailey and Kate Osamor said, “Momentum will be our grassroots network to continue the work we have begun:
To organise in every town, city and village to create a mass movement for real, progressive change.
Make Labour a more democratic party, with the policies and collective will to implement them in government.
To bring together individuals and groups in our communities and workplaces to campaign and organise on the issues that matter to us.”
We have every intention of making this a democratic movement. In the short term, we will be organising meetings of supporters across the country – many are already happening. They will determine their own local priorities and all we ask is they are inclusive and broad as was Jeremy’s support in the leadership election.
Momentum will have several roles. There will be an internally-focused Labour Party element which will need to organise within the policy process and for democratic reform. It will work with established left organisations and will have a steering group drawn from those components.
There will also be a more outwardly focused social movement, seeking to involve the widest possible range of people in local, workplace and national campaigns. Not everyone will be willing to join the Labour Party right now but they will want to work together with us to advance Jeremy‘s agenda.
Help the campaign grow. Like Momentum’s page on Facebook and share it with your friends. Follow Momentum on Twitter. Email your friends and get them to sign up. And please donate to Momentum – it isn’t going to be bankrolled by supermarket owners or global corporations.
This article is reproduced from the November 2015 issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC
29th October 2015
Recent Expulsion of some of our Labour Party comrades
Statement by Red Labour
In the course of a rather grotesquely titled ‘operation ice-pick’ (ice pick being the murder weapon used on Trotsky by an agent of Stalin) a number of long-standing party members have been expelled despite being energetic Labour supporters for all recent elections.
The charge against them is that they are suspected of being members of the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL)
- or to “have been” associated with AWL in the past
- or just to be suspected of having contributed
- or circulated Solidarity (the weekly paper linked to the AWL)
- or having attended AWL public events
- or selling or writing for its paper ‘Solidarity’.
Some have received letters saying only that they have been expelled for being members of “political groups other than official Labour groups”, a criterion drawn from the rules but so vague that if taken literally it could be a mandate for expelling probably the majority of Labour’s members. (CND members? Members of Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth? Associates of 38 Degrees? Of Red Labour? Of CLPD? Of LRC? Of Momentum?)
If these expulsions are allowed to go through, they can be a precedent for expelling whomever the Compliance Unit wants to expel and feels confident about expelling. They can be a precedent allowing sections of the Labour Party machine who do not want to come to terms with Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader to undermine Jeremy by salami-slicing away his most active supporters.
Red Labour believes that the only political criteria for membership of the Labour Party should be support for Labour candidates. There should be no exclusions of members for what brand of socialism they advocate. The only other people that might be validly excluded would be out-and-out racists, fascists and the like.
We call on the Labour Party to lift the expulsion of the 4 Party members Ed Maltby, Liam McNulty, Vicki Morris and Daniel Randall: members expelled by administrative action of the Compliance Unit.
There is also the case of Nottingham Trades Council President and NUT NEC member, Liam Conway, who was expelled 10 years ago. Liam has been repeatedly prevented from rejoining the Labour Party despite campaigning for Labour victories and only Labour victories for the past 9 years.
These expulsions should be reversed just as the Compliance Unit exclusions of many supporters from the leadership ballot were also reversed.
We believe the Labour Party needs to revise its rules about expulsions allowing for charges, hearings, and appeals which are currently not allowed. In the meantime, they should apply the existing rules with wisdom and restraint.
A number of CLPs have made clear that they will not respect expulsions made on such a basis and we would advocate others to do so as well. Our Party has to put the period of bans and proscriptions behind it.
It should be open to all who want to support Labour’s electoral battles against the Tories, who support the struggles of our trade unions and others fighting back against this cruel Tory government. Minority views should be respected. In a healthy Labour Party there should be no witch-hunting of people because of their ideas.
29th October 2015
Guardian Plumbs the Depths
Yesterday Patrick Wintour launched an attack on Andrew Fisher and the LRC in the Guardian. It was entitled “Corbyn adviser backed non-Labour candidates at least three times”.
It is a completely shoddy piece, containing outright untruths about Andrew and the LRC. For instance:
Fisher sent a “personal statement” as secretary to the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) to the Left Unity Liaison Committee asking them to support socialist Green candidates and Socialist Labour candidates. NOT TRUE
In 2008, Fisher was reported as attending a Left Unity meeting as a member of the LRC, where he was reported as saying “a growing number of members believed that Labour was now dead”.
It is no secret that Fisher was active in the LRC or that the LRC frequently examined the case for new political formations that might lead to a rival to the Labour party.
These allegations contained in an article from Patrick Wintour in the Guardian are untrue. The LRC has never supported candidates against Labour and it is against the founding principles of the LRC to do so.
27th October 2015
Build the Fight against Austerity
A Rally for all Trade unionists and Anti-Austerity Campaigners
Saturday 21st November 1.30 – 4pm
Methodist Central Hall,
London SW1H 9NH
John McDonnell MP, shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Yanis Varoufakis, academic and former Greek Finance Minister
Organised by the TUCG
The Trade Union Coordinating Group represents 8 national trade unions (BFAWU, FBU, NAPO, NUT, PCS, POA, RMT, URTU) have announced a major rally in the week preceding the Autumn Economic Statement.
The Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP and Yanis Varoufakis, ex-Finance Minister of the Syriza Government in Greece, will be participating in a Question and Answer session and joining an array of speakers from the unions and anti-Austerity movement.
This event comes at a critical time for the Labour movement in Britain and will look at the strategies needed for building an alternative to the failed policies of austerity.
23rd October 2015
Tough but exhilarating
The John McDonnell column
in November 2015 Labour Briefing
It’s a bit over a month since Jeremy was elected Labour leader and it’s been tough – but exhilarating. This is a chronicle of the first month’s events.
It started with the special Labour Conference. The result was overwhelming but actually coincided with our own last week’s telephone canvass returns. Jeremy’s speech was well received and then, after joining our supporters in the nearby pub to thank them, we joined the refugee demonstration.
That Saturday Jeremy joined Chief Whip, Rosie Winterton, at Labour headquarters to appoint a new Shadow Cabinet. Even those existing Shadow Cabinet members who had stated they would not serve with Jeremy were approached to see if they were willing to contribute. Eventually after two days of discussions with Labour MPs, Jeremy appointed a Shadow Cabinet in time for the first of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meetings on the Monday. Despite inaccurate reports to the contrary, Jeremy was well received at the PLP. He spoke and then replied in his usual gentle manner to a number of questions from Labour MPs, at the end of which he received an enthusiastic round of applause.
We were then into our first week of setting up an office, appointing the first staff, taking over the office space in the Commons and meeting the Labour HQ team. I couldn’t move into my office for a week, had one member of staff and then, when we moved in, we found all the computer equipment had been taken out. Within a week we had to prepare for Labour Party Conference. The media attention was intensive. Jeremy’s family bore the brunt of it and it was a disgrace the way they were treated. It was less so in my case but they still door-stepped every relative, past partner, friends and immediate family, offering money for articles and upsetting many of them by just harassing people. A journalist from the Daily Mail has been in my constituency for a month trying to dig up any dirt. My past speeches and activities were the subject of various distorted stories on the media. We expect all the usual abuse and bias from the Mail and Sun but the Guardian and BBC are just as biased but in a more subtle way.
The Labour Party Conference was energising for us all. With an extra 2,500 members turning up, the friendly and exciting atmosphere reflected the transformation that is taking place in the Party as a result of Jeremy’s campaign. Jeremy’s speech was extremely well received. At the Tory Party Conference the Tories were gloating at their election result and were in denial that they had only received less than 25% of the votes of the electorate. They wallowed in self congratulation and contempt for Jeremy’s election. Jeremy was back out on the road campaigning in Scotland and I visited Redcar to meet the steel workers and their families, while the unions and local MPs were meeting the receiver and government ministers in the hope of saving the plant. It was a deeply moving experience.
Returning that weekend, Jeremy and I discussed with our team the vote on the government’s Budget Responsibility Charter. The Charter is a political stunt by Osborne trying to trap us into being denounced as deficit deniers if we oppose it or supporters of cuts if we support it. Osborne has treated his charters with contempt so I had publicly said we would treat it with the same contempt and vote for it to avoid his trap. I also judged that we were at risk of large numbers of Labour MPs who had not supported Jeremy voting against us if we tried to vote against the order. We needed to avoid a large split on our first finance vote.
There were a number of factors that made us think again. Our success at the Labour Party Conference meant that many now spoke openly as Labour as an anti-austerity party. I then went to Redcar, where the government had refused to invest even to mothball the plant. The Charter would be used to justify limiting investment like this. Plus the reports on the global economic slowdown and the advice from our economic advisers highlighted just how irresponsibly out of touch the Charter was with the changed economic conditions. We took the tough decision to reverse my earlier public position – to urge Labour MPs to vote against. This would confirm us as an anti-austerity party.
We took this to the PLP meeting where some used this issue to attack the new leadership but we worked hard to speak to as many members of the PLP as possible to secure their support. The media went into a frenzy to attack and humiliate me for what they seized upon as a U- turn. The Tories revelled in my change of heart. Nevertheless with only a small minority abstaining we won the PLP to voting against the Charter and against austerity.
The result is that despite the turbulence of the first month we now have the political foundation for mobilising the Labour Party as a campaigning anti-austerity movement. Over the coming months, as the Tories force through the next round of austerity cuts, Labour has the authority to lead the fightback.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is MP for Hayes and Harlington and Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and of the Labour Representation Committee.
Labour Briefing is the magazine of the LRC.
21st October 2015
CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE ANTI-UNION BILL
TRADE UNION CO-ORDINATING GROUP STATEMENT
The Trade Union Bill is a fundamental attack on our right to organise and strike in the face of ongoing austerity.
The Tories know the trade unions are the last line of defence for millions of working people.
The bill is yet another attempt to limit our ability to collectively resist the ongoing attacks on our standard of living and our public services.
It is also an assault on one of our most basic civil liberties, the right to withdraw our Labour.
The Tories elected by only 24% of the electorate, are imposing balloting thresholds that few MPs have met in their own election
We support the TUC view that extra criteria required for “essential” public service workers, is outside international labour law.
With the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader we now have a long-time supporter of the trade union movement at the head of the opposition.
This opens up new possibilities of successfully defeating the bill by mobilising the trade union movement against it, particularly when it gets its final reading. But if the Bill is passed through parliament, we have to build mass opposition to it.
This year’s TUC conference rightly supported calls for ‘generalised strike action’ against the bill and called on unions to make ‘preparation for supporting workers taking joint/coordinated industrial action’.
The TUC also pledged to give ‘maximum possible political and industrial support and finance to trade unions that may find themselves outside the law’
We underline our complete commitment to those decisions.
No trade union will be left to face the effects of any new legislation without receiving the solidarity and support of our whole movement.
We must campaign against laws that are to be used to prevent us successfully defending our members and wider society against years more of cuts and closures.
An injury to one is an injury to all. We will defend our right to strike and organise against austerity.
We call for maximum possible support for the TUC mass lobby of parliament on Monday 2 November.
Every trade unionist and campaigner who can should attend. Our branch/committee/campaign/agrees to send…delegates to the lobby.
We call for activity across Britain on 2 November against the anti-union laws. If you can’t attend the TUC’s lobby or the protest after it, organise activity in your own town or workplace, such as a city-centre rally or protest”.
We are calling an after work protest at Parliament Square from 6pm to complement the TUC’s lobby.
If the third reading of the bill is not heard on 2 November we call for a protest at Parliament Square from 6pm on the day of the reading and for activity against the bill in every workplace, town and city on that day.
TUC conference supported the setting up of ‘committees, based on local unions, trades councils and existing anti-austerity campaigns to coordinate local activity, with meetings, days of action and rallies in every region across the UK’.
In the spirit of this decision we will be organising a series of public rallies alongside anti-austerity campaigns after the third reading of the bill to build opposition to any new laws and to develop strategies to take them on.
We call on trade unions, trade union branches, regions etc, anti-austerity campaigns and individuals to support this programme of action and add their name to the statement as supporters.
JOIN THE LOBBY by the TUC
RALLY AT CENTRAL HALL, WESTMINSTER, AT 1 PM ON MONDAY NOVEMBER 2ND
LOBBY YOUR MP FROM 2.30 PM
For those who can’t make it during the day:
JOIN THE TUCG EVENT AT 6PM.
17th October 2015
Some Labour contributions in the debate on the Charter for Budget Responsibility
from Hansard, Wednesday 14th October
John McDonnell: I suppose I should deal straightforwardly with the U-turn. Yes, two weeks ago, I recommended that Labour MPs vote for the charter, and today I shall urge them to vote against it. Is that embarrassing? Yes, of course, but a bit of humility among politicians never goes amiss. When circumstances and judgments change, it is best to admit to it and change as well, so I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the Prime Minister’s change of heart on the bid for the Saudi prisons contract.
Let me clear: I have changed my mind not on the principles of the need to tackle the deficit, but on the parliamentary tactics for dealing with this charter. Labour will tackle the deficit. [Interruption.] The Chancellor has a record of ignoring the targets he sets in these charters and mandates, treating his own charter with contempt, so I recommended two weeks ago that we should do the same. It is difficult to take seriously the charters and mandates when time after time the Chancellor has come to Parliament to revise his own charter. It is difficult to take it seriously when he has consistently failed to meet his own targets.
I remember the promises; I was here. The Chancellor promised to wipe out the deficit in one Parliament, but he did not get through half. In 2010, he promised to reduce borrowing to £37 billion by 2014-15. Last year, it was £87 billion—135% more than forecast. He promised public sector net debt would fall to 69% of gross domestic product in 2014-15. Today, it stands at 80% and above. It is no wonder that the charter has been seen as one of the puerile political traps the Chancellor likes to set.
Voting against the charter m
akes someone a deficit denier; voting for it would lead to the Chancellor claiming for the next five years that we had signed up to support every one of his cuts in public services and benefits.
I regret that the procedure followed today is an unamendable order—a take-it-or-leave-it order. My initial view was to use today’s debate for a bit of traditional parliamentary knockabout to ridicule the Chancellor’s performance against his own charter. I admit it: I was trying to out-Osborne Osborne.
Apart from the economic analysis and professional advice I have received, what really changed my mind was a trip to Redcar last week, where I met steelworkers and their families in tears at losing their jobs, their livelihoods, their futures. The Government’s failure to invest in our manufacturing industry, even if only to mothball the plant until better times arrive, has meant the end of steelmaking in Teesside and immense distress to families. The Government’s refusal to invest will be embedded in this charter as it now moves on to limit all public sector borrowing….
This charter will be used time and again as an excuse for the Government’s refusal to intervene and invest, but the more we know about its potential use, the more my view is strengthened—it has to be vigorously opposed. It will be used to justify cutting services and support to families across the UK, including the cuts to tax credits, which are the working families’ penalty. I cannot support the cuts to tax credits for working families. These are people who have done everything asked of them: they have gone to work and looked after their children, yet because of the policy direction in this charter they are going to be hit with a £1,300 cut. Neither can I support the continuing attack on disabled people, which is inherent in this fiscal mandate.
Disabled people are already harassed—some to death—by the brutal work capability assessment and often by benefit sanctions, yet they are to lose over £30 a week. Disabled people under this Government and under the coalition, have been hit 18 times harder than other citizens by the impact of cuts. I do not want the Labour party to be associated in any way with these policies, and to dissociate ourselves clearly we need to vote against them tonight….
It is increasingly clear that the charter and the fiscal mandate are not economic instruments, but political weapons. This is not an economic debate. It is about the politics of dismantling the welfare state, the closing down of the role of the state, and the redistribution of wealth from the majority to the minority. Austerity is not an economic necessity; it is a political choice…
. Over the last five years, the focus of the economic debate on the deficit has reflected the capture of the economic narrative by the right since the crisis in 2008. Over six years, the Conservatives have managed to convince many people that the economic crisis and the deficit were caused by Labour Government spending. It has been one of the most successful exercises in mass public persuasion and the rewriting of history in recent times. Today I am going to correct the record.
The facts speak for themselves. The Conservatives backed every single penny of Labour’s spending until Northern Rock crashed. The average level of spending under Labour was less than it was under Mrs Thatcher. It was not the teachers, the nurses, the doctors and the police officers whom Labour recruited who caused the economic crisis; it was the recklessness of the bankers speculating in the City, and the failure of successive Governments to ensure effective regulation. In opposition, this Chancellor and his colleagues wanted even less regulation of the banking sector that crashed our economy. The deficit was not the cause of the economic crisis, but the result of the economic crisis….
Focusing on the deficit continues to mask the underlying weaknesses and failures of our unreformed economic system. We are witnessing a recovery based on rising house prices, growing consumer credit, a ballooning current account deficit and still inadequate reform of the finance sector. I worry that some of the warning signs are reappearing. But the Conservatives have adhered to their dictum: never let a crisis go to waste. They have skilfully used their narrative of the deficit to enable them to cut public services, slash benefits, and give tax cuts to the rich and corporations. Successive charters and fiscal mandates brought before this House have been cynically used as a weapon in that cause.
The purpose of the original Fiscal Responsibility Act 2010, brought in by Labour, was to bolster the then Government’s economic credibility. I recall what the current Chancellor said. He described it as little more than a political stunt. But he soon learned what a useful tool charters and mandates can be, and immediately upon the coalition’s election, he introduced his own. The fact that he missed most of his targets was irrelevant to him; what was more valuable was that charters could be picked up whenever needed and prayed in aid to excuse any attack on the welfare state and any cut in benefits, and provide a means to redistribute wealth upwards.
The charter before us today also has little basis in economics. Let me quote Dr Ha-Joon Chang, Professor Thomas Piketty, Professor David Blanchflower, Mariana Mazzucato and Simon Wren-Lewis. Those eminent economists in our society said that it has “no basis in economics. Osborne’s proposals are not fit for the complexity of a modern 21st-century economy and, as such, they risk a liquidity crisis that could also trigger banking problems, a fall in GDP, a crash, or all three.”
They go on to say that if the Government “chooses to try to inflexibly run surpluses…Households, consumers and businesses may have to borrow more overall, and the risk of a personal debt crisis to rival 2008 could be very real indeed.”…
Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): We are getting to the crux of this debate, which is that this fiscal charter is intellectually moronic. It essentially commits this House to never borrowing to invest, even when the cost-benefit analysis of that investment is such that the country would benefit greatly. That is why it has not one serious economist backing it, other than the self-styled experts on the Government Benches.
John McDonnell: I could not have said it better myself. Can we move on?
The Chancellor may not appreciate these economic points, but I believe many of his advisers do. That is why there is a sizeable get-out clause for the charter rules not to apply outside normal times when there is a significant negative shock to the UK economy. Not only are the social consequences of this programme devastating, but the scale of the cuts we are witnessing represents a false economy. They jeopardise the long-term economic prosperity of our country. It is a false economy to cut adult social care when the burden is shifted on to hospitals and accident and emergency departments. It is a false economy to pursue an ideological sell-off of council housing eventually to put up the rents and eventually increase housing benefit. It is a false economy, ironically, that when this Government came to office there were 70,000 people at HMRC and within the next year that is planned to fall to 52,000—a cut of more than 25% in the number of tax-collecting staff, when HMRC says that tax evasion is as high as £10 billion a year….
The worst false economy is the failure to invest. This will be a direct result of Government policy embedded in this charter, with its limits on all public sector borrowing. Economists from across the spectrum have written and commented on the need for investment for the future. The World Economic Forum ranks the UK 10th for the quality of our infrastructure, behind Germany, France, the Netherlands and Spain. This Chancellor’s strategy has given us investment as a share of GDP lower than all the other G7 countries, falling even further behind the G7 average in recent years.
That is why business leaders, trade unions and a host of others are calling for investment. It is incomprehensible for the Chancellor to rule out the Government playing a role in building our future. For him to constrain himself from doing so in the future, no matter what the business case for a project, has no basis in economic theory or experience.
We also face an uncertain medium-term future for the global economy. In recent weeks there has been mounting evidence of a decline in global demand, particularly in the emerging markets….
Economists have warned of the potential for a future slowdown in western economies as a result. Former chief economist at the World Bank, Larry Summers, wrote last week that the dangers facing the global economy are more severe than at any time since the height of the crisis. Faced with these potential challenges, it makes no sense to close down the fiscal options available, especially when there is a possibility that monetary policy options may also be constrained.
I want to break the stranglehold that the focus on deficits has had on the economic debate in this country in recent years. Yes, the deficit is vitally important, but we need a paradigm shift to open up the wider debate on what makes a healthy economy, a prosperous economy, in which everybody shares in that prosperity and in which everybody is secure, not just the wealthy few, where everybody has a decent home in a sustainable environment, is able to develop their talents to the full, has secure, stable, well-paid and rewarding employment, and support when they fall on hard times. We will tackle the deficit, yes, but we will not tackle—[Interruption.] Hon. Members should listen and they will hear.
We will not tackle the deficit on the backs of middle and low earners, and especially not on the backs of the poorest in our society. We will tackle the deficit, but we will do it fairly and to a timescale that does not jeopardise sustainable growth in our economy. We will balance day-to-day spending and invest for future growth, so that the debt to GDP ratio falls, paying down our debts. We will do this, first, by ending this Government’s programme of tax cuts to the wealthiest in our society. This winter, when the letters go through the letterboxes telling working families how much they will lose in tax credits, we will be reminding them that their tax credit cut has paid for a cut of billions of pounds in the inheritance taxes of the richest families in this country.
Secondly, we will give HMRC the resources and powers to tackle tax evasion and avoidance—no more Facebooks paying less than £5,000 in tax despite £35 million in bonuses and total global profits of £1.9 billion—but above all else we will grow our economy. We will use smart Government institutions to strategically invest in the key areas that increase GDP in the future: education, health, research, technology, human capital formation and training—a progressive economic agenda that recognises that wealth creation is a collective process, working in partnership with businesses, workers, public institutions, and civil society organisations that create wealth in this country….
That is why we will establish a national investment bank to invest in innovation across the entire supply chain, from the infrastructure we need to the applied research and early stage financing of companies. To tackle the growing skills shortages we will prioritise education in schools and universities along with a clear strategy for construction, manufacturing, and engineering skills to build and maintain sustainable economic growth. The proceeds of that growth will reach all sections of our society.
So we are launching the debate on the economy we need and the economic instruments and policies needed to achieve that prosperous and sustainable growth. That is why we are reviewing every aspect of economic policy and systematically assessing our economic institutions, the Bank of England, HMRC and the Treasury.
Today I can announce that I have appointed a former member of the Monetary Policy Committee, Professor David Blanchflower, to lead a review into whether the Monetary Policy Committee should be given a broader mandate. He is joined by Lord McFall, the former Chair of the Treasury Committee.
This is Labour’s radical project. It is based upon the sound advice of some of the best economic brains in the country. We will be testing our policies and economic instruments and we will be asking the Chancellor to give us access to the resources of the Office for Budget Responsibility to model our proposals. I am asking the same of the Governor of the Bank of England.
We are seeking the widest public engagement in our economic policy discussions. The dividing lines between us and the Government are not just on how to tackle the deficit and who pays for the crisis. They are more fundamental. It is about for whom the economy works and the role of the strategic state in this process. So today we will oppose this charter as an instrument for imposing austerity on our community unnecessarily. We are bringing to an end the petty game playing and moving on to a more serious debate of how the economy can work for everybody….
John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): There is a saying in literature that normal is as narrow as the street that you live in. The Chancellor lives in a little gated community—a cul-de-sac with perhaps a problem neighbour next door. The constraint on his economic plans is the backdrop to the decision tonight on whether to have this charter. Yet he cannot cite anyone supporting the charter other than those who are sitting behind him. Our friends in the CBI are not supporting his charter. The City of London is not supporting his charter. The Governor of the Bank of England was not prepared, in the Treasury Committee, to support his charter. Indeed, all the economic experts who came before the Treasury Committee when we looked at this in some depth in July did not at any stage choose to support his charter.
Indeed, the Chancellor’s own Conservative colleagues in the Treasury Committee, who are somewhat absent tonight, were reluctant to speak out in favour of his charter. The reason is that it is a political gimmick. It has no necessity other than politics. That is why he has no support anywhere in business or the City for it. Churchill said, “Don’t strive to be ‘normal’.” The Chancellor should heed Churchill’s advice, because “normal times” is the sting in the tail that makes the charter so pernicious. What has happened since Churchill? It is interesting. There has been a bigger percentage of budget surpluses under Labour Governments since Churchill was Prime Minister than under Conservative Governments.
Far be it from me to cite Margaret Thatcher as a source on this, but Margaret Thatcher, in all but one of her years, ran a budget deficit. Conservative Governments have usually run budget deficits more than Labour Governments. The Chancellor, every single year, has run a budget deficit—a record £505 billion since he came in. Yet he wishes to give us this lock-in that is purely a trap to try to entice the Labour party into stupidity.
This is Parliament, and in Parliament we vote on legislation. There is plenty of space for political games and political tricks outside, but not in here when we vote on legislation. That is precisely why everybody in the House should vote against it. There are vital economic debates on what the Budget should be—whether there should be cuts, how cuts should be made and what taxation should be, on all of which there are critical and different views—but this is a trick and a gimmick. It is something that our friends in business, our friends in the City and our friends as economists have refused to back. I therefore look forward to Conservative Members also opposing this political gimmickry….
Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Matt Warman). He has clearly not read the columns of his former colleague Martin Wolf, who agrees with the arguments made by Labour Members. If anybody wanted to know whether this was a political gimmick, they only needed to look at the 90 minutes provided on the Order Paper for this debate—a pitiful 90 minutes to discuss something that is meant to be an important economic policy…
. We took evidence on this matter in the Treasury Committee in July. We found nobody who was prepared to endorse the Chancellor’s proposals. Even the Governor of the Bank of England, when pressed by the Chair of the Select Committee, said that he was “declining to opine on specific legislation”. He stated that “the UK Government have had the announced intention in Budgets in place for a sustained fiscal consolidation. That is one of the headwinds against the economy”.
It was not just left-wing economists who criticised the Chancellor. The head of the Thatcherite Institute of Economic Affairs, Professor Philip Booth, said that the fact that “these very damaging things have been done to child tax credit systems…is my biggest concern.” He continued: “I think in the handbook of possible fiscal rules the Government is choosing a very, very, very bad one.”
One of the most pernicious things about the rule that the Chancellor has chosen is that it treats capital and current spending the same. He is ignoring the fact that investing in housing, science, broadband, transport and the university system is a way of strengthening economic productivity and increasing growth in the British economy. Nobody thinks that it is right to max out the credit card to pay the weekly grocery bill—of course not—but families up and down this country take out mortgages to buy their homes. There is a precise parallel here.
Opposition Members are not deficit deniers. We want to bring down the debt-to-GDP ratio, as the shadow Chancellor said. In that task, the Chancellor has failed spectacularly. The debt has gone up by £500 billion under his stewardship. To get the debt-to-GDP ratio down, we must do two things. We must run the public finances in a sensible way. That means making sensible savings, for example by tackling fraud in the housing benefit system and not going ahead with the ludicrous cuts to inheritance tax, which will benefit the richest in our country. At the same time, we must get sustainable growth into the economy. That means investment.
14th October 2015
The Charter for Budget Responsibility and the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2010
Osborne’s ‘Charter for Budget Responsibility’ bears a remarkable resemblance to Gordon Brown’s Fiscal Responsibility Act. Both seek to bind government spending to tight rules in the face of an unknowable future. Both were and are political gimmicks. Osborne’s Charter, like Brown’s Act, is unenforceable; no penalties will be incurred when it is inevitably broken.
When Brown promoted his Act in the dying days of the last Labour government, Osborne sneered that it was “vacuous and irrelevant”. What has changed?
On taking office the Tories solemnly promised to get rid of the government budget deficit by 2015. They failed miserably. Based on their record of failure and deceit, here is the Financial Times’ contemptuous appraisal of their latest stunt:
Financial Times Editorial 10.06.15
Osborne’s Budget Law is Political Gimmickry
“Ironically, the legislation Mr Osborne’s bill most resembles is the Fiscal Responsibility Act passed by former UK prime minister Gordon Brown in 2010. That required the next government to halve the rate of borrowing within four years. As soon as he took office Mr Osborne repealed the law, having previously called it “vacuous and irrelevant”. And rightly so. Had he not done, it would have forced him into further austerity in 2012 and 2013.”
14th October 2015
‘Living within our means’ makes no economic sense.
Labour is right to oppose it
By Ha-Joon Chang
Some have called it a U-turn; others have described it as a shambles. But John McDonnell’s volte face was the right thing to do, even though it meant losing face, big time.
On the eve of the Labour party conference, McDonnell surprised detractors and supporters alike by saying that Labour should vote for George Osborne’s new fiscal charter, which requires the country to run budget surplus in “normal times”. Now McDonnell says his party should vote against it.
Admittedly, even when proposing to vote in favour of Osborne’s charter, McDonnell advocated a different vision of fiscal responsibility from what the chancellor was proposing. McDonnell pointed out that running a budget surplus means taking demand out of the economy, so there is an economic illiteracy in wanting to run one more or less permanently. He also argued that surplus should be run only on the current (consumption) component of the budget, and that deficit could – and should – be run on the capital (investment) component of it. His view was that if you borrow to invest, the debt will more than pay for itself in the long run as the investment matures and raises the economy’s output, and thus tax revenue.
The shadow chancellor was also insistent that, even while reducing the deficit, he would do it in a more equitable way. Rather than mainly squeezing the most vulnerable groups, as the Conservatives have been doing, the fiscal gap would be closed by raising taxes on the top earners and, especially, being much tougher on tax avoidance and tax evasion.
However, these are all part of the fine print. Once you accept that you have to run a budget surplus in order to be “responsible”, you have, as an anti-austerity politician, already lost the debate. You win a political debate by making people accept your vision, not by pointing out that you offer them better terms in the fine print – which they are unlikely to read anyway.
So if McDonnell is going to win the economic debate, he needs to change its terms. He has to start by doing another U-turn on the statement: “We accept we are going to have to live within our means, and we always will do – full stop.”Because this is simply wrong. This view assumes that our means are given, and we cannot spend beyond them. However, our means in the future are partly determined by what we do today. And if our means are not fixed, then the very idea of living within them loses its meaning.
For example, if you borrow money to do a degree or get a technical qualification, you will be spending beyond your means today. But your new qualification will increase your future earning power. Your future means will be greater than they would have been if you hadn’t taken out the loan. In this case, living beyond your means is the right thing to do.
Now: if you are a government, your means are even more flexible.
Like individuals, of course, a government can increase its means in the long run by borrowing to invest in things that will make the economy more productive, and thus increase the tax revenue. If a government invests in improving the transport system, it will make the country’s logistics industry more efficient. Or if it invests in healthcare and education, that will make the workers more productive.
More importantly, unlike individuals, a government has the ability to spend “money it does not have”, only to find later that it had the money after all. The point is that deficit spending in a stagnant economy will increase demand in the economy, stimulating business and making consumers more optimistic.
If enough businesses and consumers form positive expectations as a result, they will invest and spend more. Increased investment and consumption then generate higher incomes and higher tax revenues. If the tax take increases sufficiently, the government deficit may be eliminated, which means that the government had the money that it spent after all.
If Labour wants to re-establish its credentials for economic management, it needs to start by rejecting the “living within our means” mantra. The idea may have as much obvious appeal as other examples of homespun philosophy, but it is one that is more fitting for 18th-century household management than for the management of a complex 21st-century economy.
Unless the Labour party changes its foundational belief in the virtue of the government living within its means, British voters will never be convinced of the finer points of Keynesian economics, or of the ethics of inequality, that John McDonnell is trying to make.
From the ‘Guardian’ 14.10.15
14th October 2015
Why we Oppose the Charter for Budget Responsibility
John McDonnell’s Letter to Labour MPs
Charter for Budget Responsibility and the Fiscal Mandate
On Wednesday the vote will take place on an order to adopt the Government’s charter for Budget Responsibility including the fiscal mandate.
There is a significant difference between the charter and the mandate which the Labour Party agreed to support in January in that the Government’s proposal to require a continuing surplus on public sector net borrowing constrains the ability to borrow for future capital investment, a key plank of Labour’s growth strategy and one supported by the great majority of mainstream economists.
The consistent failure of George Osborne to abide by and achieve his economic targets over the last five years has led to a growing sense of incredulity over the economic basis for the charter process he has adopted.
Most have interpreted this exercise as little more than political game playing.
In my initial public comments and in my speech to Labour Party conference I made it clear that we had no time for these political games and would move on to a serious discussion about the future of our economy, including a review of our economic institutions.
At that stage, my approach was to show the inherent weaknesses of the Chancellor’s approach, the charter and its various get out clauses.
I suggested we vote for it nevertheless in support of the principle of tackling the deficit but to demonstrate that our approach would not involve austerity measures and we would seek to exclude capital investment from its severe and arbitrary constraints.
Because the debate on Wednesday is upon an order, we are unable to table a reasoned amendment to make that position clear. Indeed the initial clerk’s advice is that it may not be eligible even for publication.
I believe that since my initial reaction matters have moved on and we should now vote against the order.
The tone of our debate now also has to shift to a much more serious analysis of what our economy is likely to face in the coming year.
In the last fortnight there have been a series of reports highlighting the economic challenges facing the global economy as a result of the slowdown in emerging markets. These have included warnings from the International Monetary Fund’s latest financial stability report, the Bank of England chief economist, Andy Haldane, and the former Director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers.
I have consulted members of the economic advisory council, which has been established to advise us on economic trends and policy, and the general view is the same. Although we need to continue to bear down on the deficit, they believe that this is not a time in any way to undermine investment for growth strategies. That view has also been broadly supported in my discussion with other Shadow Cabinet and former Shadow Cabinet members and as well as colleagues from across the PLP.
There are other reasons for reconsideration of our position. As the nature and scale of the cuts Osborne is planning are emerging there is a growing reaction not just in our communities but even within the Conservative Party. The divisions over the cuts in tax credits to working families are just the first example of what we can expect as the cuts in other departments are exposed and the failure to find additional resources to bridge the growing expenditure gap in service areas like the NHS is revealed.
So I believe that we need to underline our position as an anti-austerity party by voting against the Charter on Wednesday. We will make clear our commitment to reducing the deficit in a fair and balanced way by publishing for the debate our own statement on budget responsibility. We will set out our plan for tackling the deficit not through punishing the most vulnerable and damaging our public services but by ending the unfair tax cuts to the wealthy, tackling tax evasion and investing for growth.
For all these reasons our position will be to vote against the Charter for Budget Responsibility on Wednesday and promote our own fairer alternative.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss this further.
John McDonnell MP
14th October 2015
5 things you should know about George Osborne’s “Charter”
and why Labour will be voting against it:
from Labour List
1. It commits every government to running a budget surplus in normal times from 2019 onwards. However since 2010, Osborne has missed his own deficit targets and changing the law won’t help him to do any better.
2. Effectively it is a big political stunt from George Osborne so that he has an excuse to keep making ideologically-driven cuts.
3. But it’s a dangerous stunt because if the Charter is followed to the letter it binds the hands of future governments, making it illegal to borrow money for investment in infrastructure or housing even at times when investment would lead to faster economic growth.
4. In fact, the best way to reduce the deficit now is to invest to grow our economy. It’s for this reason that most economists disagreed with George Osborne’s cuts
5. It could also force a government to keep making cuts, irrespective of the impact they have on public services and working families.
It is crucial that we reduce the deficit, and Labour takes this mission seriously, but it must never be on the backs of the most vulnerable, or at the cost of the key public services we all rely on.
9th October 2015
Blacklisting firms run up the white flag
During this morning’s hearing at the High Court for the blacklisting group litigation conspiracy trial, the majority of blacklisting firms in the trial represented by McFarlands solicitors submitted a revised set of legal pleadings. The document accepts virtually all of the facts about the workings of the Consulting Association blacklist argued by lawyers representing the 700 claimants. Hugh Tomlinson QC representing the blacklisted workers called the revised document a “radical transformation” and a move “on the path to righteousness”
David Kavender QC representing the major blacklisting firms told the court that his clients effectively accepted vicarious liability for the misuse of the blacklist. The admission and apology is the result of High Court legal action by the Blacklisting Support Group, Unite, GMB, UCATT and against 40 major construction firms involved in blacklisting through the secretive Consulting Association and Services Group of the Economic League. Those companies include Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Skanska, Kier, Vinci and Laing O’Rourke. It is estimated that compensation payouts could be around £100 million.
Full implications are still to be discussed and agreed as most lawyers have only seen the revised pleadings today. Other remaining blacklisting firms have not made any decisions whether they are to prepared to “hitch their wagons to the McFarlands caravan”. Lawyers for blacklisted workers will now be discussing their combined response.
Dave Smith, secretary Blacklist Support Group was in the court and commented:
“The blacklisting wretches have run up the white flag. They are guilty as sin and this is a desperate attempt to to try and avoid the spectacle of a High Court conspiracy trail. Personally, I want to see the directors of this national scandal given evidence under oath about their involvement in this systematic human rights abuse. Real justice would see those responsible for ruining so many lives sent to jail.
Unfortunately the British legal system is unlikely to provide real justice but we will continue to push for full disclosure of the evidence that has been deliberately concealed and a public inquiry to expose the full extent of this national scandal”.
Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Blacklisting has ruined lives and led to hardship and misery for thousands of people. The admissions from the blacklisters and the damages for the blacklisted are an important step on the road to justice in righting that wrong.
“That road won’t be completed though, or the stain of blacklisting removed, until there is a full public inquiry and the livelihoods of the blacklisted restored by the firms involved giving them a permanent job.
“Those Tory ministers, who profess to be on the side of workers, while attacking trade unions should take note of these landmark admissions. They need to drop their draconian Trade Union bill which will make it easier for bad bosses to get away with injustices like blacklisting.”
5th October 2015
British Politics changed on 12th September 2015
The John McDonnell column in the October issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC
At special Labour Party conference to elect the leader of the Labour Party, as Jeremy’s agent I went with him to an upstairs room in the QE2 Conference Centre in London to await the results of the ballot. We joined the other candidates for the leadership and their agents and engaged in friendly chat while we waited for Iain McNicol, Labour’s General Secretary to arrive. It was tense but we were reasonably confident of a good result. As every candidate will tell you, nothing is certain until the result is declared. Iain came in and announced the results of both the leadership and deputy leadership elections. Jeremy’s result was overwhelming. Although the scale of the victory was in line with our canvassing returns, nevertheless it was startling to see the actual size of Jeremy’s majorities in each section of the electorate, both members and supporters.
It was a political earthquake. There will be much comment and analysis in the weeks and months ahead on why this has happened. Put simply, it was obvious throughout the campaign that people wanted someone and, more importantly, something they could believe in once again. After years of the politics of spin and triangulation, people wanted what Jeremy’s campaign strapline offered “Honest Politics. Straight Talking.”
The tens of thousands who attended Jeremy’s rallies around the country and the thousands of volunteers in the campaign embraced a new kind of politics. It is the politics of inclusion, of principle, of stand up for what you believe in, and respect for the other’s point of view. Jeremy’s speech to the Conference, his talk to the TUC Congress and his first Prime Minister’s Questions, all reflected this new politics.
Since then a Shadow Cabinet has been appointed. It was regrettable that a small number of members of the Parliamentary Labour Party refused to serve in the Shadow Cabinet but they have all been offered the opportunity to serve the Party in some role if they wish to. The approach to the appointment of both the Shadow Cabinet and the overall administration has been inclusive, to erect a big tent politics.
Working with Rosie Winterton, Labour’s Chief Whip, Jeremy was successful in creating the first Shadow Cabinet with a majority of women, 16 women to 15 men. When some criticised the fact that there were no women in the so called “big jobs” it was clear that they had failed to understand that we rejected the notion of these supposedly senior posts. This is a 19th century throw back to when the state consisted of departments to fight wars, control the streets and collect the taxes. Responsibility for educating our children, treating our sick, protecting our environment and all the other government departmental services are equally, if not more, important in some people’s eyes than the traditional departments.
Throughout the first week the media have thrown everything they can at us and there will be more. Every crevice of family or personal life is being scoured to make a story for the right wing gutter press, whether true or not. I pay tribute to the way Jeremy and his family have stood up to this invasion of their personal privacy. Expect much more of the media distortions and attacks.
Nevertheless we are getting on with forming an effective opposition to the Tories. It is vitally important now that we transform the mass support we mobilised in the leadership campaign into a major movement against austerity and in support of the Corbyn Labour administration. People are buzzing with ideas on campaigns that need to be launched and how we can mobilise.
A new politics of hope has leapt onto the scene. It is crucial that we seize the moment to use this great surge of hope to lay the foundations of a Labour government being elected in 2020 to transform our society.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is MP for Hayes and Harlington and Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and of the Labour Representation Committee.
17th September 2015
Blacklist Support Group Latest
Points from their TUC Congress week 2015
Jeremy Corbyn & John McDonnell
Blacklist Support Group congratulates Jeremy Corbyn in his landslide victory in the Labour Party leadership election. Jeremy has always supported blacklisted workers, signing Early Day Motions (when most Labour MPs didn’t), attending BSG meetings in parliament and in his Islington constituency and over the years has stood next to us on picketlines outside building sites.
John McDonnell is a founder member of the Blacklist Support Group - he organised and chaired our first ever meeting in the spring of 2009. He has stood by us ever since; as our spokesperson in parliament, on picket lines, in the media, at our AGMs & meetings. John also wrote the foreword for ‘Blacklisted’ book and is the MP who exposed the role of the police in the blacklisting conspiracy in parliament. One of our own is now the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. He will rip George Osbourne’s head off. GET IN THERE!
Corbyn’s election is a victory for the trade unions over the Blairites. Corbyn and McDonnell together are a massive boost for the blacklist campaign. It’s just got very interesting.
No Public contracts for blacklisting firms
Corbyn is sending out emails asking Labour Party supporters what questions he should ask Cameron at PMQs. If you are a LP member, you can support the campaign by suggesting that he asks why firms involved in blacklisting trade union members are still being awarded public contracts. The firms need to be punished not trade unions. Make your suggested question short and snappy and please post any on social media.
Message to blacklisting companies: Corbyn and McDonnell both actively support our demand that ‘no public contracts for firms involved in blacklisting’. Be worried.
Motions at TUC Congress on blacklisting and undercover police spying on trade unions.
Motion 74 Blacklisting and state spying on unions
Submitted by: Fire Brigades Union
Congress applauds the tremendous work done by unions and the Blacklist Support Group in campaigning against the blacklisting of workers for trade union activity.
Congress is alarmed by media reports into police spying on, and infiltration of, activist organisations, environmental and anti-racist campaigns, including the Stephen Lawrence campaign.
Congress notes the Home Secretary’s announcement on 12 March 2015 of the Pitchford Inquiry into the operation of undercover police bodies.
Congress further notes the blacklisting meeting at Westminster on 12 March 2015, which heard the statement from a former undercover police officer disclosing that he spied on members of the FBU, UNISON, CWU, NUT and NUS.
Congress notes the significant evidence contained in a number of published books and media articles of police monitoring of, and interference in, the trade union movement
during industrial disputes, union-backed anti-racist and environmental campaigns, as well as routine trade union activity.
Congress demands that these issues are fully addressed by the Pitchford Inquiry and that relevant information is sought by the inquiry without threat (e.g. of prosecution) to those agreeing to provide evidence.
Congress believes that a trade union body such as the TUC, as well as the Blacklist Support Group, should be given ‘core participant’ status in the Pitchford Inquiry.
Congress resolves to campaign for the democratic rights of trade unionists and against secret state interference in the labour movement. This will substantially further the interests of trade union members and elected representatives to engage in their legitimate trade union activities.
Amendment Submitted by: GMB
• Add a final paragraph:
“Furthermore, Congress calls on the European Parliament to ensure both the EU Data Protection Regulation and the EU Health & Safety Strategy 2014–2020 explicitly ban blacklisting of workers for their trade union and health and safety activities.”
Motion 73 Undercover police surveillance of trade unionists
Submitted by: Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians
Congress notes that in March 2015 it was revealed that Mark Jenner, a police officer serving in the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), had infiltrated construction union
UCATT and spied on its members.
Congress further notes that former police officer Peter Francis, acting as a whistleblower, has admitted that during his time in the SDS he spied on trade unionists in the construction industry and activists in the NUT, CWU, FBU and the National Union of Students.
Congress is aware that information on the files of workers blacklisted by the Consulting Association could only have been provided by the police or the security services.
Congress is alarmed that attempts to find out further information on the involvement of police officers in infiltrating unions has been blocked by the Metropolitan Police on the grounds of national security.
Congress believes that trade unionists who were spied on by the police have an absolute right to know why they were targeted in this manner.
Congress calls on the TUC General Council to:
i campaign for a full independent public inquiry into blacklisting in order for these and other matters relating to how the lives of workers were ruined are fully revealed
ii ensure that the inquiry being led by Lord Justice Pitchford into undercover policing and the SDS fully investigates the links between the police and blacklisting
iii provide support and assistance to all unions whose members were subjected to secret police infiltration and surveillance.
Amendment Submitted by: National Union of Journalists
• Add new final paragraph:
“Congress further resolves to support the NUJ campaign against surveillance of journalists and calls for further legislative changes, including an independent judicial process; automatic mandatory prior notification; and mechanisms to challenge and appeal in cases where the authorities, including the police, are attempting to access journalists’ communications, materials and sources.”
16th September 2015
Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour Party leader
Statement by the LRC EC
The Labour Representation Committee welcomes the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader by an overwhelming majority. The LRC fully supports Jeremy’s opposition to austerity and war, and his support for trade unionism and
Britain becoming a safe haven for refugees. LRC members played their part in his campaign and salute all those thousands of others who also did so.
We welcome Jeremy’s effort to include in his Shadow Cabinet many who did not support him in his leadership campaign in an effort to strengthen Party unity. The appointment of a majority of women to the Shadow Cabinet is especially positive. We particularly welcome the appointment of our Chair John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor, with his firm commitment to opposing cuts in public services and the welfare state, and austerity in general.
The LRC urges all Labour MPs and Party members to support our new leader, recognising the mandate he has from Party members and supporters. While debate on policy is expected and legitimate, we would expect that any
disagreement is not aired in the media in a way which could be used by the enemies of our movement. This is so especially at a time when the media and Tories have shown their eagerness to distort and exploit such disagreements.
Our movement has an urgent task in attacking the government when it is introducing such pernicious legislation as the Trade Union Bill and the Welfare Reform Bill, both of which continue the Tories’ policy of creating scapegoats in order to dismantle the welfare state and undermine the ability of workers to resist attacks on their working conditions.
14th September 2015
HELP STOP THE TRADE UNION BILL
from Unite the Union
Last week we asked you to email your MP to make sure they understood exactly why they should say NO to the Trade Union Bill.
This bill will give bad bosses the green light to make working life harder for everyone - and it’s a threat to all of our rights at work.
Many thousands of you have already taken action – thank you! But stopping this bill is going to take all of us. It’s easy to do.
Many of you have already been shocked by what you have read the Tories want to do:
• allow employers to use agency workers to break strikes
• forcing you to tell your employer what you’ll be posting on Facebook or Twitter and if you’ll be taking banners on peaceful protests
• or landing you with a £20,000 fine if you fail to wear an armband!
• making it much harder to take strike action when you’re being mistreated.
• and, in the public sector, capping facility time used to support workers and ending ‘check-off’, the easy way to pay your subs.
All of this is going to make it much harder to defend your job, defend or improve your pay and working conditions. And the above is just some of what they want to do. No wonder opposition inside and outside of Parliament is already growing.
They are voting on these plans TONIGHT (14th September) – so take the 30 seconds to email your MP NOW!
It’s your voice at the work the government is trying to silence – but use your voice now to tell MPs to say No to the Trade Union Bill.
Assistant general secretary, Unite the Union
12th September 2015
Jeremy Corbyn’s victory speech
at the special Labour Party Conference
on September 12th (extracts)
Jeremy Corbyn started by thanking Iain McNicol, the Labour staff and Harriet Harman.
Harman’s decency and passion for the rights of women is something we must thank her for. We have legislation on the statute books to thank her for.
I congratulate Tom Watson on his election (as deputy leader). Watson is passionate about communication, and about holding people to account who do not want to be held to account.
I thank Ed Miliband for all his work. I had a long conversation with him recently. I thanked him for his work as leader and as energy secretary, and for the way he showed dignity when under attack by the media, particularly when his father, the late, great Ralph Miliband, was criticised.
The Tories have used the economic crisis to impose a terrible burden on the poor. It is not right, and it has got to change.
You must tackle grotesque levels of inequality. We need an economic policy to deal with that.
Labour stands here because of the work of others.
But it will go forward stronger. Its passion and humanity is intact.
It is going to reach out to everyone to help offer people a decent start in life.
The Party is going to become more inclusive, more involved, and more democratic.
It will shape the future for everyone.
Thank you in advance to everyone working together.
Poverty does not have to be inevitable. Things can, and they will, change, he says.
I congratulate Sadiq Khan, our elected candidate for London Mayor. I am fed up of the social cleansing in London being undertaken by the Tories.
The media did not understand the views of many young people. They had been written off as uninterested in politics. But they are very political. They are just turned off by the way politics has been conducted.
Labour has changed during the last three months. It has grown, because people want a better Britain.
Addressing new members, and registered supporters, Jeremy says welcome to the party, welcome to the movement.
To those who are returning, he says welcome back.
He thanks the MPs who nominated him. Some had ‘some reluctance to do so’, he says. But they did so in a spirit of inclusion and democracy.
The campaign began with very little. But it gained support and volunteers. I thank the unions that supported me.
Labour is a party organically linked together, between the unions and the affiliated organisations.
I used to be an organiser for NUPE (now part of Unison). That is why I am so opposed to what the government is doing with the trade union bill.
I have done 99 rallies. Today is my century.
I thank people in Islington North Labour for helping him get elected.I thank my family. They have suffered the most appalling levels of abuse from some of the media in past months.
Addressing journalists, he said it is okay to attack public figures. But journalists should leave their relatives alone.
I thank those who attended the hustings meetings. That shows how passionate people feel about being involved in debate.
I want to make the party more democratic.
Jeremy received a standing ovation.
11th September 2015
Support Keith Henderson
Regular viewers of this website will be aware of the long running saga of Keith Henderson and his union, the GMB.
In 2012 he was dismissed as a full-timer for the union. He appealed. His appeal is still ongoing. An Employment Tribunal decided in 2013 that his dismissal was in part because of his “belief in left wing democratic socialism.” This is the reason a Union has for sacking someone! John McDonnell has been stalwart in Keith’s support.
Keith decided to try and stand as General Secretary. As the letter below shows, the rules as interpreted make it almost impossible for Keith or any other rank and file candidate to stand. This is a stitch up. Support Keith Henderson!
Dear Mr Short.
Thank you for your letter, dated 8th September 2015 in relation to the election of General Secretary and Treasurer.
I would like to express my concern in relation to the timescales outlined in your letter which make it necessary to make a decision forthwith in relation to your offer to allow me to appeal the ruling to prevent me standing in the General Secretary and Treasurer election.
As you are aware that I have formerly complained in relation to the bye laws that the CEC have formulated and imposed that prevent me seeking nominations from branches in relation to my desire to stand in this election, based on the ideas of devolvement and democracy outlined in the GMB Left manifesto.
As you are also aware this complaint was rejected as was the appeal and could be the subject of a certification officer complaint.
Whilst I can understand that technically, the bye laws, which would be the subject of the complaint, outline that thirty branch nominations must be forthcoming before a candidate’s name appears on the ballot paper the fact that I have been prevented from contacting branches to inform them I was seeking nomination, or to announce my nomination in a national newspaper, as others have been allowed to do, mitigates against me, or any other rank and file member standing for the highest office in the union.
It is my contention, that unlike rules, bye laws are not written in tablets of stone. In light of this, and given the current climate in the wider Labour movement at this moment in time I am appealing to the CEC, in conjunction with the agreement of the other candidates to waive bye law 2 on this occasion and allow me to stand in the election. Under rule 15.4 of the GMB union rule book the CEC has the right to withdraw or amend any by-law.
This while taking into consideration that in future any member of the union, securing the support of their own branch, should be able to seek the nomination of other branches.
Surely basic union democracy should mean that any GMB member should be able to seek nomination for election for the position of General Secretary.
If that individual’s own branch members feel that such a nomination is worthy of support they should be able to give it without fear of recrimination. (Currently both the Secretary and President of my branch are suspended from holding office pending a disciplinary hearing following the meeting that nominated me).
If that person’s branch supports their nomination, that individual should then be able to approach all branches making it clear they are seeking nomination.
Recent events have shown that machinations of a bureaucratic nature that prevent ideas being aired have been totally rejected.
It is my contention that if the majority of GMB members were aware of the ideas of transferring power in the union, from a national and regional level to a branch and workplace level and that these ideas were prevented from getting a hearing by the cynical use of bye laws to ensure the status quo is maintained, they would be outraged.
If there is no support for myself or the ideas that I represent then there is nothing for the other candidates who have been allowed onto the ballot paper to fear.
Therefore, I call on the CEC to amend the by-laws and allow me onto the ballot paper to ensure that a proper wider debate can happen. It is the first time in over 12 years that GMB members are getting a vote on who their General Secretary is so let’s have a full debate and not deny anyone who has received nominations from being on the ballot paper.
Yours in Solidarity
Nominee For The Position Of General Secretary and Treasurer
9th September 2015
Contemporary motions 2015
Labour’s economic policy needs to secure growth and end austerity
1. Osborne’s instruction to government departments to draw up plans by autumn for 25% and 40% real-terms cuts.
2. NHS regulator Monitor’s August announcement that hospitals must only fill ‘essential’ vacancies, due to finance shortages.
3. The wide support expressed by Labour members and supporters throughout August for the anti-austerity agenda advocated by Jeremy Corbyn; in rallies across Britain and votes in the Leadership election.
4. Polling evidence (including YouGov, Populus, Ashcroft) that voters do not support continuing austerity.
5. Parties campaigning against austerity (SNP, Greens) increased their vote shares more than Labour at the May general election.
1. Tory austerity policies; cutting financing of health, other services and benefits, with public sector real pay cuts; are political choice, not economic necessity – and should be opposed by Labour.
2. The planned £12bn welfare cuts (from total public spending of approximately £760bn) should be opposed by Labour in parliament.
3. Labour policies should defend and improve living standards, not impose further austerity on the majority.
4. To achieve this, Labour economic policy should focus on directing state investment to stimulate growth and create jobs. Labour should draw up real plans to increase investment and present a credible alternative framework to the Tories’ austerity.
5. Areas to prioritise investment should include: housing, infrastructure and green energy.
6. Improving government revenue due to economic growth, not cutting public spending and austerity, is the way to cut the deficit.
The deadline for receipt of contemporary motions is Thursday 17 September 2015 at 12 noon.
The title has a maximum of 10 words and the motion a maximum of 250 words
Contemporary motions 2015
The YMCA’s report, ‘Uncertain Futures’, launched on 4 August 2015, states that the proposal in the budget to cut housing benefits for 18 to 21-year-olds could leave thousands of vulnerable young people homeless.
Conference notes that these young people are amongst the millions on low incomes, including many in work, who rely on housing benefit to secure a roof over their head and who will be severely impacted by proposals to cut benefits.
Conference also notes that, despite the increasingly severe housing crisis, the Tories propose to limit the availability of affordable rented housing by extending the ‘Right to Buy’ to Housing Association homes. The Tories’ budget proposals will undermine the finances of Housing Associations and their ability to build and develop genuinely affordable housing, as already evidenced by Genesis Housing Association’s announcement on 30 July that they will no longer build homes for affordable or social rent. The proposals will also undermine the finances of local councils forced to support them.
Conference believes that George Osborne’s plans will worsen the housing crisis. They will increase homelessness and the numbers forced into insecure, unregulated and poor quality private sector housing.
Conference therefore commits Labour to campaign:
against housing benefit cuts which will punish those in housing need;
against the depletion of the stock of social and council housing through the extension of the ‘Right to Buy’;
for a massive increase in the supply of council housing with proper security of tenure and genuinely affordable rents.
The deadline for receipt of contemporary motions is Thursday 17 September 2015 at 12 noon.
The title has a maximum of 10 words and the motion a maximum of 250 words
Contemporary motions 2015
NHS: Don’t let the Tories run it down
Conference notes the 3 August letter sent to NHS Trusts by health service regulator Monitor, declaring that current financial plans are ‘quite simply unaffordable’ and that Trusts should fill vacancies ‘only where essential’.
Conference views with even greater concern the 4 August report by the Chartered Institute for Public Finance (Cipfa).
Cipfa notes that government hopes of saving £22bn over the next 5 years are already ‘optimistic’ and take no account of David Cameron’s pledges to increase 7-day services and to introduce a ‘living wage’, let alone preventing the knock-on effects on the NHS of government’s failure to invest in social care and its 6.2% cuts this year to its grants to local authorities for public health.
Cipfa warns that drastic solutions now required may include a greater reliance on health insurance and/or direct payment by individual patients towards the cost of their healthcare.
Faced by the prospect of privatisation and charges, this Conference now affirms Labour’s commitment to campaign with patients, healthworkers and all other NHS supporters for:
an NHS that is publicly owned, publicly (and adequately) funded and publicly accountable;
reduced waiting-times for patients ;
no service closures (or ‘reconfigurations’) without proper local consultation and consent;
adequate numbers of properly remunerated staff;
exclusion of the NHS from TTIP and other ‘free trade’ agreements.
It was Labour that fought to create the NHS; it is now up to Labour to fight to defend it.
The deadline for receipt of contemporary motions is Thursday 17 September 2015 at 12 noon.
The title has a maximum of 10 words and the motion a maximum of 250 words
Contemporary motions 2015
The total elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide including Trident
On 6 August at the commemoration ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, announced that he would submit new resolutions to the United Nations General Assembly in Autumn this year and to the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting to be held at Hiroshima next year, for real determination for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
Conference notes that the estimated lifetime cost of the Trident nuclear weapons system is £100 billion; believes that this is wholly unjustified at a time of devastating cuts in public spending; believes that nuclear weapons do nothing for the security of Britain or the world; further believes that Trident replacement would breach Article V1 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Conference resolves to support the scrapping of Trident and any plans for its replacement. Conference urges all Labour MPs to vote against Trident replacement and calls on the Labour Party to prioritise practical plans to transition the highly-skilled work-force away from nuclear weapons production into more socially productive industries to protect jobs and skills and to help grow the British economy.
Conference calls on all Labour Party members, Labour Party units and affiliates to campaign against Trident and against plans for its replacement. Conference calls for support at the UN and G7 for the new resolutions from the Prime Minister of Japan for international agreement for the total elimination of nuclear weapons world-wide.
Conference notes that research published by the Guardian on 6 August shows that one in six jobseekers have been hit by benefit sanctions, contrary to official Government figures.
Conference also notes that, despite media propaganda about ‘scroungers’ and unacceptably high welfare bills, over half of welfare provision is made up of pensions and most of the rest is in-work benefits such as tax credits or child benefit. Very little welfare spending is on unemployment benefits.
Conference asks shadow spokespersons to make the positive case for welfare spending in their media appearances.
Conference resolves to campaign against negative propaganda about welfare claimants and acknowledge that all of us receive benefits at some point in our lives.
The deadline for receipt of contemporary motions is Thursday 17 September 2015 at 12 noon.
The title has a maximum of 10 words and the motion a maximum of 250 words
All these Contemporary Motions are taken from the CLPD website: http://www.clpd.org.uk/
29th August 2015
Folkestone United – coming together to support migrants
Bridget Chapman, Folkestone United, reports
I moved to the Kent coast in May 2014. I knew I would miss the diversity of Brixton, my home for the previous 15 years. I also knew that some attitudes on the Kent coast would be problematic. Fear of migration is always highest where levels of migration are lowest.
I’m a union organiser so I threw myself into union activities in Kent. While I was running a stall for the NUT one Saturday a woman gripped my arm and told me why she thought there was a shortage of school places. “It’s the Muslims”, she said, “They’re taking over. ”I looked up and down the crowded, and entirely white, high street and gently asked her, “Where are they?” She faltered, knowing, I think, that there really was no foundation for her assertion, and slipped away.
When the General Election build-up began in earnest, UKIP, which had a stronghold on the Kent coast, began ramping up its anti-immigrant rhetoric. I saw the impact of its relentless and blatant scaremongering. People became emboldened to say what had previously been unacceptable.
Working in Folkestone one day I entered into conversation with a man who was from Greenwich and, attempting to make conversation, I said that I had gone to school in Greenwich. “It’s awful round there now”, he said. He continued, “It’s all black. Do you know that there are schools where some classes are entirely black? If I had a gun, I’d shoot them.” He spoke in the bland, calm tones you might use to discuss the weather, and I realised that he assumed that I would agree with him. He didn’t think he was saying anything particularly shocking.
At moments like this you can see how the Nazis rose to power. If the negative rhetoric used by groups like UKIP isn’t challenged, it opens the door to more extreme views. UKIP are not fascists but they are a gateway to fascism and that is why we must challenge the language they use.
Along with others I formed a group called Folkestone United to do just that. We came together in January 2015 and did all we could to counter the negative messages being put out about migration locally. We had stalls in the town centre every Saturday, leafleted, and held days of action.
After the General Election result we decided to keep going. We could see that, although UKIP had failed to convert their growing popularity into significant electoral success, the peddling of anti-immigrant rhetoric was something that wasn’t going away.
That proved to be the case with the growing Calais migrant crisis. . We became increasingly frustrated with the irresponsible tone of the reporting. Stories of two thousand migrants “storming” the Channel Tunnel proved to be false and dehumanising words like “swarm” and “flood’ abounded. The focus of the reporting seemed to be entirely on the inconvenience to holiday makers, and not on the desperate stories of the migrants fleeing violence, persecution and terrible hardship.
When we heard a young teenage boy from Sudan had been found dead on top of one of the Channel Tunnel trains it broke our hearts. We decided that we needed to send a clear message to the migrants in Calais that we stood in solidarity with them, and the way they were being treated was not in our name. We also wanted to speak directly to the media, to tell them that we would no longer accept irresponsible, inaccurate and dehumanising coverage of this issue.
Along with Thanet Stand Up to UKIP we organised an impromptu demo at the Channel Tunnel terminal. It was a difficult venue for people to reach and it wasn’t a huge protest, but in terms of press coverage it was a great success. News teams from all across Europe covered it and it was the lead story on the BBC and Channel 4 News that night. Since then we’ve had a steady stream of journalists coming to do follow-up stories. We’ve had visits from Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish and French news teams, all keen to cover a story about a pro-migrant group.
We’ve now built links with L’Auberge des Migrants, a group working to support migrants in the Calais camps and are planning a solidarity visit in mid-September - taking donated goods and cash donations. The response from people in Folkestone has been overwhelming.
There’s lots more work to do and this is just the beginning. We’re looking forward to the challenges ahead, such as the European elections in 2019. One of our local MEPs is Janice Atkinson who, having been thrown out of UKIP, has joined Marine Le Pen’s fascist group in the European Parliament. It is a stain on the name of our town that she represents us. Come 2019 we want to make sure that she is given her marching orders.
And there is work to be done to build tolerance and reduce fear. The damaging myths around migration need to be destroyed. This is not the time to be silent.
28th August 2015
Seven reasons why Jeremy Corbyn is not Michael Foot,
according to Tony Benn
By Mike Phipps
Beware of Jeremy Corbyn, he’s the next Michael Foot - this has become a recurrent theme from Jeremy’s opponents in the mainstream media.
Anne Perkins made the comparison in the Guardian in July here
Jack Dromey drew the same parallel in the New Statesman a few weeks later. here
Now The Economist is the latest publication to join the fray. here
The message is clear: Michael Foot was an arch-left-winger whose radical socialism led Labour to an historic electoral defeat in 1983 from which it took over a decade to recover.
This version of events bears little relationship to the historical reality. With a little help from the contemporary Diaries of Tony Benn, we can straightforwardly demonstrate why comparing Corbyn to Foot doesn’t stand up.
1. Michael Foot opposed the democratisation of Labour’s internal structures. Even before becoming Labour leader, Foot opposed both the mandatory reselection of Labour MPs and the introduction of an electoral college to elect the leader.
2. Once leader, Foot unilaterally nominated new peers to the House of Lords, despite a National Executive Committee decision opposing this. Jeremy Corbyn, by contrast, has indicated that as leader he would not appoint new peers to this undemocratic institution.
3. Michael Foot demanded Tony Benn not stand for the deputy leadership, so that the post would by default fall to right-winger Denis Healey. He further told Benn that if he stood - as he did - he would let it be known that Foot had asked him not to - an unprecedented intervention by a leader in an internal Party election. Benn documents in detail in his 1980-90 Diaries how Foot tried to muzzle him on a variety of occasions - for example, when Benn was elected to the Shadow Cabinet, Foot refused to give him a portfolio, yet still demanded he be bound by collective ministerial responsibility.
4. Michael Foot supported Margaret Thatcher on the north of Ireland, in particular her refusal to make concessions in the face of a hunger strike by IRA prisoners campaigning for political status. By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn has always taken a principled stand in favour of Irish self-determination and against British imperial rule in the island.
5. Michael Foot denounced in the House of Commons the candidacy of Peter Tatchell as prospective parliamentary candidate in Bermondsey, without any prior discussion with any internal Party body.
6. Michael Foot supported the sending of a military Task Force to wage war in the Falkland Islands and later congratulated Thatcher on her victory in the conflict - “It was odious and excessive,” Benn noted in his diaries.
7. Michael Foot launched a witch-hunt against the Militant Tendency. This was extended through the 1980s and 1990s to exclude a wide range of opinion from the Party that disagreed with the leadership.
Tony Benn concluded from his own fraught dealings with his leader that “Michael Foot is a leader of the right.” There are many reasons why Labour lost the 1983 election so heavily - including the split from Labour of the right-wing Social Democratic Party as well as the so-called ‘Falklands Factor’, or more specifically Labour’s failure to lead any opposition to this war. But the idea that the root cause of Labour’s electoral defeat was that Labour MPs, in the last leadership election before the electoral college democratised the process, somehow elected too left-wing a leader simply doesn’t hold water.
28th August 2015
Corbyn Campaign Diary
So they think it’s just a load of adolescents? Well, here it is, the Diary of Jackie Walker, aged 61¼, one of thousands enthused by Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for Leader.
IT BEGAN WITH TALKING. Not just to friends but to acquaintances, people I bumped into on the street. I progressed onto social media. I couldn’t stop it. Some people might call it obsessive. I call it politics.
7 July For the ‘Meet Andy Burnham’ event, my question is prepared, “Given the success of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, in particular his anti-austerity policies, if you win, how would this inform your policy making?”
Burnham’s introduction, low on policies and full of clichés like “Labour needs to make an emotional contact with people again”, was expected. Then he told that awful story about meeting the ex-Labour, now UKIP, voter who complained of being the only English speaker at his work’s canteen. So before I put my question I described my experience campaigning against Farage in Thanet South, told him it was AUSTERITY that was the problem. Burnham blinked, a rabbit in the headlights look, responding with vague “we have to learn to talk to ‘ordinary people’ in their own language” sort of stuff. When I tried to challenge his response I was silenced by his MP minder but, when four further questioners took up the theme and he saw he was losing his audience, he quickly moved his position.
8 July Parliament Square, the afternoon of the Budget. Jeremy Corbyn came out of Westminster to speak to demonstrators as news of the redistribution of wealth from poor to rich sent Tory backbenchers apoplectic with triumphalist joy – and the rest of us seething with indignation. When Jeremy finished, wardens, backed by police, stormed through the crowd in protective gear, removing a sound system that had been playing John Lennon’s Give Peace a Chance to the crowd in the sunshine of a summer afternoon. You couldn’t make it up … really. I was outraged. It was then I decided, we HAVE to stop the Tories, and I realised the ‘we’ meant me – it was time to make the political deeply personal.
9 July Brockley station in South East London was the first stall. I was joined by a new comrade recruited on Facebook, her mother of 80 and Jeremy’s niece (a local in the area). I had LRC leaflets, T shirts, badges, copies of Labour Briefing. I repeated the mantra, “Vote Jeremy Corbyn for the anti-austerity leader of the Labour Party!” The response was immediate and enthusiastic.
So much for Jeremy’s supporters being the young and politically naïve; I find supporters coming out of the woodwork are in the 60-plus age group… and mostly women. These lapsed Labour voters became disillusioned as New Labour set the Party on the quest for that mythologised, Blairite, political Holy Grail of the ‘middle ground’, whatever they believed it was. I had always known New Labour’s strategy was a chimera, a shape-shifting ploy to dissolve ideology and people-politics into Murdoch-palatable sound bites that would lead the labour movement to oblivion.
11 July My best friend’s daughter’s wedding. The bride is from a family of Jewish, left wing, anti-apartheid campaigners. It sounds like a setting for a strange rom-com but I just happen to speak to the bride, the groom, a number of the guests and get eight signed up as registered supporters. What better way to mark the optimism of a wedding than voting for Jeremy? It worked. Not only did they text, they went on to campaign with their friends. That’s grassroots.
16 July The Honor Oak stall was emotional. Joined by two male comrades, the response was overwhelming, cars and even a London bus, laden with rush hour passengers, stopping to grab leaflets from our hands. One woman sticks in my mind in particular, a night cleaner at a hospital, walked towards me, laden down with bags of shopping and the two children dragging at her heels. She said she knew nothing of politics but had been told at work about the cuts which would affect her paltry wages and her tax credits. Even though she looked exhausted we talked for 15 minutes, her asking questions and me sharing my thoughts. She put her bags on the ground, I held the children and she texted to become a supporter. A grassroots supporter.
19 July At the end of a Bristol weekend visiting my son (and of course dropping off LRC Support Jeremy Corbyn leaflets for him to distribute) we get to the Tolpuddle Festival. It’s a beautiful day. I take my turn on the stall. The level of interest means even with three people there’s almost always a queue. Jeremy badges and T shirts are everywhere. When Jeremy arrives he’s surrounded by well-wishers. Jeremy’s not set to be on the main stage, ridiculous as it seems – but we’re told he will speak after the formal end of the festival for any that are interested – and it looks like most are. At last Jeremy begins to speak and he tells of the Martyrs, of the history of agricultural labourers and their unions, of the history of struggle, of the great accomplishments of the labour movement. We plan for the future by remembering the struggles of the past. And then I realise, if Jeremy becomes leader, it will change my life, the personal and the political.
23 July Lewisham stall. There were the self proclaimed anarchists who took 50 leaflets to distribute to their mates, the Eastern European builders, the 60-plus men and women and the younger voters as before, a whole load of professional looking black women, but for the first time there was also anger – from two (youngish, middle class, white) Labour Party members. And they were livid. “You’re destroying the Party!” they insisted. “Don’t you get it? You’re making us unelectable!” I repeated their statement back to them word for word. They were stunned. It obviously hadn’t occurred to them that, as far as I was concerned, it was they, and their New Labour politics, that had destroyed Labour’s electoral base.
1 August On the surface it might be hard to see why marching on a protest against deaths in the Eurotunnel in Folkestone, with fascists baying at our heels, protected by a police cordon, and speaking on the same afternoon to a meeting of potential Corbyn supporters in Broadstairs, are linked.
In South Thanet, the constituency where Farage failed to be elected (though we do have the only UKIP council), austerity is made palatable by stirring up hatred against, mainly non-existent, immigrants taking ‘our jobs’ and overwhelming our services. News of a 13 year old killed in the Tunnel trying to get to England, and the unwillingness, some might call it cowardice, of the Labour Opposition to actually oppose the Welfare Bill, initiates a group of like-minded locals to discuss the Corbyn 4 Leader campaign and think what we can do, apart from screaming at the radio every time a politician calls human beings a “swarm” or worse. We decide to march on the Tunnel. Never mind there’s a meeting later in the day, we’ll make sure we get to both.
At the Corbyn meeting I speak to a packed room of mostly older, many ‘we once voted Labour’, locals. They are enthused. Jeremy has made a video responding to local issues. We end on one note – the campaign to win the next election for anti-racist, anti-austerity politics starts here, we happily agree.
From then on we were on a roll. Stalls in Ramsgate and Broadstairs, even in Folk Week, much to the annoyance of some local UKIPers who believe politics should be banned from folk music; I don’t think they have much sense of history. There was contact with comrades in Medway, supplying T shirts and always… talking, talking. It hasn’t stopped. Like I said, this is the start of the campaign that can win for Labour, for a Jeremy Corbyn led government in 2020. And that’s got to be a grassroots movement.
From the September issue of Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC.
28th August 2015
STEP UP THE CAMPAIGN TO FREE KOLCHENKO AND FREE SENTSOV
NO RETURN TO STALINIST SHOW TRIALS IN RUSSIA
The decision on 25th August by a military court in Russia to sentence the Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov to 20 years in prison and socialist and anti-fascist activist Oleksandr Kolchenko to 10 years has sparked an international outcry. They are to be held in a high-security penal colony, Sentsov has been denied the right to even see his children.
Both were arrested by the Federal Security Service (successor to KGB) on 11th May 2014 following the Russian annexation of Crimea, held on trumped up charges of ‘terrorism’. Despite being Ukrainian citizens both were taken from Crimea and the trial held in Russia’s city of Rostov-on-Don under Russian law.
Kolchenko a well-known anti-fascist activist has been absurdly accused of being part of a plot with ‘Right Sector’ the ultra-right nationalist organisation. The whole trial has been denounced by human rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Amnesty International describing the trials as being “redolent of a Stalinist-era show trials of dissidents.” Stating that that it was “was fatally flawed and credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment have been ignored by the court. Both Oleg Sentsov and one of the main witnesses for the prosecution have alleged that they were tortured.” See: Crimean activists sentenced after a fatally flawed military trial .
Human Rights Watch in their dispatches pointed to the political motive of this trial:
“Since the Russian occupation of Crimea, Russian authorities have been quick to silence those who oppose their actions there – be they Crimean Tatars, pro-Ukraine activists, or Moscow-based independent advocates. But this latest case, and the terribly harsh sentences for Sentsov and Kolchenko, is the starkest warning yet to Russia’s critics in Crimea: keep quiet or else.” See: Dispatches: Crimea keep quiet or else!
As the judge read the sentencing Kolchenko and Sentsov were defiant standing arm in arm and singing Ukraine’s national anthem including the lines “We will lay down our body and our soul for our freedom”.
From the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign website
27th August 2015
From Protest to Power
By John McDonnell MP for Hayes and Harlington,
Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and of the Labour Representation Committee
NOBODY PREDICTED THE ENORMOUS SCALE OF SUPPORT AND ENTHUSIASM for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership election campaign. In one of the very few interviews I have given about the campaign, I said that we would shock the establishment with the level of support we would generate but not even I thought we would be seeing rallies of 1,000 to 2,000 people overflowing into the streets.
Let’s try to understand where this support has come from. In a recent very astute article Selma James and Nina Lopez Jones from Global Women’s Strike explained that for some time now there have been numerous individual campaigns organised by local communities and specific groups within our society, often led by women on a massive range of issues – ranging from hospital unit closures, benefit cuts for disabled people, cuts and increased charges in child care, detention of asylum seekers, and the degradation of our environment through fracking. A high level of anger and determination has been present and suddenly has found itself a voice in Jeremy’s campaign and a single campaign to focus around.
In addition a new generation of young people has come through which isn’t saddled with the disillusioning lack of confidence of many of those who went through the hopes of getting rid of the Tories in 1997, only to have those hopes smashed by Blair and New Labour on the rocks of the Iraq war, the introduction of tuition fees and the PFI privatisation of our NHS. When we discussed the nature of our campaign I said our overriding theme must be to give people hope. I suggested that if we were to develop into a wider movement one name for that movement could be simply “Hope.” Nearly a decade ago we argued that another world was possible. We now have a mass movement in prospect that comprises people who are shaking off their lack of confidence that another world is achievable and others, many of them very young, who have no fear of trying for that world.
The potential of a new mass movement for radical change has put fear into every element of the establishment. The Labour establishment has gone into virtual meltdown. The succession of ex-Labour leaders and cabinet ministers, from Blair through Brown to Kinnock, denouncing a Corbyn leadership, has been aimed at sowing doubt among party members and supporters as they vote. The media establishment has thrown every trick in the gutter press book at the Corbyn campaign – from pure invention to targeting his family and friends. The smear campaigning techniques of the media are increasingly taken by people with total scepticism. The coverage in the press has opened up the opportunity for live media coverage on TV and radio, which has given Jeremy the opportunity of successfully speaking more directly to people. The inventive use of social media has been an effective countervailing force against the traditional media bias.
But we haven’t seen anything yet. If we win the leadership election, the whole force of the establishment will be thrown at us to undermine the incoming left Labour leadership and the movement that is currently being born. The argument that has been put forward by our opponents is that a Corbyn-led Labour Party would be a protest movement rather than a party capable of being elected and capable of governing. This completely misunderstands how a radical movement of the left can come to power and be sustained in government. For a radical left movement to win and sustain democratic power it needs to be both a protest movement mobilising people’s demand for change and a party with a coherent policy programme that is readily implementable in government.
The creativity needed to articulate and mobilise the demand for change that engenders the support of millions has to be combined with a professional expertise in administering change in government at all levels. We have to be more efficient, more effective and more pragmatic than the capitalist establishment in the arts of governance and economic management.
Whether or not Jeremy wins the leadership election we now must address how we take the enthusiastic support mobilised by the Corbyn campaign and create that movement of both protest and government. The campaign has shown what immense potential and talent there is in our communities. It is that talent and determination that we now have to bring together in the organisational form of a new movement, building on the creativity that has been unleashed and eschewing many of the old forms of centralised control politics of some elements on the left. This has to be an immediate task of the left. Especially it means determining how we come together immediately after the election result is announced and decide our first mobilisation at local grassroots as well as at national levels of campaigning to demonstrate the ongoing nature of our campaign. The message is straightforward. We are not going back!
This is John’s monthly column in Labour Briefing, the magazine of the LRC.
23rd August 2015
Jeremy is the one making sense
Letter to the ‘Observer’ 23.08.15
The accusation is widely made that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have moved to the extreme left on economic policy. But this is not supported by the candidate’s statements or policies.
Jeremy Corbyn wins economists’ backing for anti-austerity policies
His opposition to austerity is actually mainstream economics, even backed by the conservative IMF. He aims to boost growth and prosperity. He voted against the shameful £12bn in cuts in the welfare bill.
Despite the barrage of media coverage to the contrary, it is the current government’s policy and its objectives which are extreme. The attempt to produce a balanced public sector budget primarily through cuts to spending failed in the previous parliament. Increasing child poverty and cutting support for the most vulnerable is unjustifiable. Cutting government investment in the name of prudence is wrong because it prevents growth, innovation and productivity increases, which are all much needed by our economy, and so over time increases the debt due to lower tax receipts.
We the undersigned are not all supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. But we hope to clarify just where the “extremism” lies in the current economic debate.
Bruce V Rauner professor of economics, Dartmouth and Stirling, ex-member of the MPC
Emeritus professor, London South Bank University
Emeritus professor, Leeds
Professor, Kingston University London
Emeritus professor, UCL
NEF personal capacity
Dr Suzanne J Konzelmann
Lecturer, New York
Marco Veronese Passarella
Lecturer, University of Leeds
Dr Judith Heyer
Emeritus Fellow, Somerville College, Oxford
Dr Jerome De-Henau
Senior lecturer, Open University
Professor, University of Bergamo
Formerly Universität Wissemburg-Halle
Dr Pritam Singh
Professor, Oxford Brookes
Senior research fellow at Istat, Rome
Dr John Roberts
Retired former economist
Professor, University of Manitoba
Associate professor, University of Oxford
Guglielmo Forges Davanzati
Associate professor, University of Salento
Senior lecturer, Glasgow
Emeritus professor, Open University
Socialist Economic Bulletin
Adjunct lecturer, University of Adelaide
Associate professor, Laurentian
Editor, Red Pepper
Senior researcher, ISAE, Rome
NEF personal capacity
Lecturer, City University
Dr Mary Roberton
23rd August 2015
16th August 2015
Labour Representation Committee Disabled Members Group
Liz Kendall on BBC News today said:
“Yes we must support the disabled, but we must support ordinary people as well.”
The Labour Representation Committee Disabled Members Group demands Kendall withdraws this statement and apologises.
Disabled People are disabled by barriers which block their equal participation in society
Those barrier include attitudes such this one by Kendall
Language which implies we are outside the ordinary, abnormal or lesser people allows cuts in our benefits, the abolition of the ILF and even Hate Crime and murder to be tolerated.
Removing the barriers including the attitudes is the first step towards equality
14th August 2015
Something Different, Something Subversive
New Website – Check it out
Yvette Cooper today summed up the fear and panic that has gripped the Labour Party’s establishment. Yesterday around 165,000 people signed up to either join the party or become registered supporters, taking the total electorate in the leadership election to around 610,000. That is just under 1% of the country, roughly the population of metropolitan Glasgow. However, the predominant response from the Labour mainstream has been disquiet, shock and disbelief at the mounting support for Jeremy Corbyn which is fuelling the growth of genuine, mass Labour Party politics. There is little sign of celebration at the enthusiasm coming from young people who, we are told, have been “a-political” for so long. Cooper railed to warn of the threats to social democracy that exist across Europe, and that the same inclinations that drove support for ‘insurgent’ forces such as UKIP and the SNP might now be finding a home in Labour:
“But when times are tough, and the old answers, and the old parties don’t seem to be working, people cast around for something else.
Something different. Something subversive. Something to kick out at the system, to express anger, frustration and the demand for change.”
From the 2010-11 protests to the ‘Yes’ campaign, to the rise of electoral support for the Greens, there is plenty of evidence that our generation precisely craves “something different, something subversive”. In Corbyn those of us who marched and protested over the last 5 years, and many more who didn’t, finally have a voice which is shaking up what is possible in mainstream politics. This is not before time. To us the idea of a Labour Party which supports and includes social movements and seeks to empower workers and communities is far from old fashioned.
We don’t live in a time where grey policy prescriptions and technocratic niceties, the sensibilities of the ‘sensible left’, can deliver or inspire. The patronising bombasts of New Statesman andGuardian columnists have been grist to Corbyn’s mill. Those of us with no guarantee of economic security and experiences of the draconian benefit system and zero hour contracts don’t need lectures on moderation and making the market work. We’ve been labelled extremists for supporting workers’ rights, building houses, nationalising the railways and worst of all suggesting that economic policy should be designed with full and decent employment in mind. This only confirms the death of any kind of reasonable ‘centre ground’, for good or ill.
In this age of social media and antipolitics, we are the new modernisers. The Corbyn wave has shown the mood for an outward facing socialist Labour politics. Scottish Labour Young Socialists will be a platform for those who wish to continue what the Corbyn campaign has started. Partisans of subversive politics cannot let this historic opportunity pass.
12th August 2015
Centre Left Grassroots Alliance recommended slate
National Policy Forum, regional delegates
Jo-Anne Rust (NW Norfolk) Rachel Garnham (Mid-Beds) Ian Ilett (Suffoilk Coastal?) Russell Cartwright (Luton South) Isobel Morris (Norwich South)
Lachlan Morrison (Sherwood) Ilyas Aziz (Nottingham East) Charmaine Morgan (Grantham & Stamford) Marion Smith (Loughborough) Lauren Mitchell (Sherwood)
James Murray (Islington S) Alon Or-Bach Peray Ahmet Phillip Freeman (Cities of London and Westminster)
Laura Pidcock Katie Weston (Stockton North)
Gaye Johnston (Hyndburn) John Fox (Wigan) Paul Donovan (Ellesmere Port) Lorraine Beavers (Lancaster & Fleetwood) Hollie Probert (Ashton-Under-Lyne)
Suzy Cullinane Mike Cowley Martyn Cook (07827 962960) Lyndsay Clelland (Uddingston & Bellshill) South East Joyce Still (NE Hants) Simeon Elliott Dan Sartin (Worthing) Bev Clack (Oxford E) James Elliott (Oxford East)
Ray Davison (East Devon) Carol Wilcox (Christchurch) Helen Rosser (Bournemouth E) Chris Watts (Swindon S) George Downs (East Devon)
Nick Davies (Swansea W) Donna Hutton (Aberconwy) Annabelle Harle (Cardiff West) Tony Beddow (Swansea W) Sam Pritchard (Swansea East)
West Midlands Martin Tolman (Solihull & Meriden) Nigel Knowles (Wyre Forest)
Yorks & Humberside
George McManus (Beverley & Holderness) Patrick Smith (Hull N) Ann Cryer (Keighley) Emma Hardy George Norman (York Central)
Association of Labour Councillors
Angela Cornforth (Greenwich LBC) Simon Letts (Southampton) Stephen Thomas (Hartlepool) Sue Lent (Cardiff)
National Constitutional Committee
Gary Heather (Islington N)
Conference Arrangements Committee
Katy Clark Jon Lansman
11th August 2015
Back Jeremy Corbyn to save the NHS!
As nurses, doctors, health workers and NHS campaigners, we are supporting Jeremy Corbyn as the only candidate for Labour Party leader committed to rebuilding a comprehensive public health service, and to opposing austerity and its impact on health inequalities.
We note that Corbyn is being supported by the two biggest unions of NHS and health workers, Unison and Unite, and by the Socialist Health Association.
With the Tories’ re-election, they are stepping up their drive to dismantle the NHS. They have accelerated privatisation of services; frozen staff recruitment; and extended the attack on NHS workers’ terms and conditions to doctors. The current Labour leadership is not providing anything like an adequate opposition.
The NHS can only be saved on the basis of public ownership, public control and public provision for need. That means radical policies on increased funding, reversing privatisation and outsourcing, ending the scandal of the Private Finance Initiative, opposing corporate plundering through trade deals like TTIP, restoring migrants’ access to the health service, and ensuring decent terms and conditions for NHS staff. Integration of health and social care must be on the basis of public funding and free public provision, not charges or means-testing.
Only Jeremy Corbyn has committed himself to such policies, and more immediately to backing the frontline struggles of communities, campaigning groups and health workers which are taking place in defence of the NHS now. We call on all those fighting to save the health service to back his campaign.
6th August 2015
Report from the Monster Corbyn Meeting on Monday August 3rd
By Chris Knight
I arrived at Camden Town Hall in good time. Scarcely had I got out my Labour Briefings than I was surrounded by people anxious to buy. It felt like Back to the Future, perhaps to 1984—except that even at the height of the miners’ strike, we never packed this massive building like this.
Ghosts from my political past came up, often surprised to realise that Briefing still existed, sometimes teasing me with ‘Labour Take the Power!’. That sounded amusing but somehow appropriate once again, at least to my ears. Shoving his microphone under my nose,
Michael Crick of Channel 4 News described himself as a subscriber who remembered me well. Who, he asked, was our current Class Traitor of the Month? Gate-crashing the interview, a nearby SWP-er said we should expel the Blairites. Speaking to the camera, I asked why he thought he had any right to tell Jeremy who to expel. Labour is a broad church in need of unity, not expulsions. I did concede that maybe a few Blairites might consider their position, which made Crick happy enough.
I sold fifty Briefings within twenty minutes. Discovering ten extra copies lying on a stall, I sold them even more quickly as people formed an orderly queue. Two longer queues, side by side, had by now completely encircled the entire block. The main hall plus all available overflow rooms were packed. We thronged outside until eventually our hero appeared on the roof of the FBU’s bus. He began by quoting the firefighters’ magnificent slogan: ‘We rescue people, not banks’. The crowd went wild.
I can’t report what happened inside because despite having a ticket, hundreds of us never got in.
Labour Briefing is the magazine of the LRC
1st August 2015
Corbyn T Shirts Going Like Hot Cakes
28th July 2015
To see a complete pdf of the current issue of the LRC’s magazine, click here
28th July 2015
Rally for Corbyn - Jeremy in Norwich
Join us at our Norwich rally and Q&A.
This is an opportunity for you to hear Jeremy put his case for Labour leader and the chance for you to get answers to questions you may have for him.
Come along and hear how he is building both this campaign and putting forward the wider case for progressive politics.
Thursday August 06, 2015 at 7pm - 9pm
20 Bank Pln
Norwich NR2 4SF
28th July 2015
Central London rally in support of the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader campaign.
Time: Monday, 3rd August, 7.00pm
Place: Camden Centre (entrance on Bidborough Street), Town Hall, Judd Street, London WC1H 9JE
This is your chance to hear Jeremy outline his case for a different sort of leadership as well as speakers including:
Owen Jones, writer and campaigner
Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London
Shadia Edwards-Dashti, Stop the War Coalition
John McDonnell MP
Cllr Emine Ibrahim
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS
Ellen Clifford, Disabled People Against Cuts
We look forward to welcoming you next Monday
– please RSVP here
Jeremy for Labour Campaign
22nd July 2015
A Flavour of Corbyn
In a speech today (July 22nd) Jeremy Corbyn outlined the economic programme on which he is standing for Labour leader. Here is a flavour. Corbyn explained:
“Labour will close the deficit through building a strong, growing economy that works for all, not by increasing poverty.
“Austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity. There is money available – after all, the government has just given tax breaks to the richest 4% of households.
“Where there are tough choices, we will always protect public services and support for the most vulnerable.
“But in an economy that works for all, we will be able to ask those with income and wealth to spare to contribute a little more.
“You just cannot cut your way to prosperity so Britain needs a publicly-led expansion and reconstruction of the economy, with a big rise in investment levels.
“Under these plans Labour 2020 will make large reductions in the £93 billion of corporate tax relief and subsidies.
“These funds can be used to establish a National Investment Bank to head a multi-billion pound programme of infrastructure upgrades and support for high-tech and innovative industries.
“Talk of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is largely southern hot air. The pain of the cuts has been devolved, but power and prosperity remain tightly centralised.
“We must ensure that our national housing, transport, digital and energy networks are among the best in the world.”
“The UK has shifted from taxing income and wealth to taxing consumption; and from taxing corporations to taxing individuals.
“We must ensure that those with the most, pay the most, not just in monetary terms but proportionally too.”
The full speech:is here
22nd July 2015
The Fab 48 MPs who Voted against the Bill
Below is a complete list of all the MPs who voted against the Tory Welfare ‘Reform’ Bill. The Bill is set to plunge tens of thousands of children into poverty. Among those MPs who voted against are 48 Labour MPs who rejected the advice of interim Leader of the Opposition Harriet Harman and actually opposed the Tories. Note that the LibDems and SNP members had no problem in voting ‘no’. If your MP is here, congratulate them. If they are not, have a quiet word.
Abbott, Diane - Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington
Abrahams, Debbie - Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth
Ahmed-Sheikh, Tasmina - SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire
Anderson, David - Labour MP for Blaydon
Arkless, Richard - SNP MP for Dumfries and Galloway
Bardell, Hannah - SNP MP for Livingston
Black, Mhairi - SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South
Blackford, Ian - SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber
Blackman, Kirsty - SNP MP for Aberdeen North
Boswell, Philip - SNP MP for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
Brake, Tom - Lib Dem MP for Carshalton and Wallington
Brock, Deidre - SNP MP for Edinburgh North and Leith
Brown, Alan - SNP MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun
Burgon, Richard - Labour MP for Leeds East
Butler, Dawn - Labour MP for Brent Central
Cameron, Dr Lisa - SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow
Campbell, Gregory - DUP MP for East Londonderry
Carmichael, Alistair - Lib Dem MP for Orkney and Shetland
Chapman, Douglas - SNP MP for Dunfermline and West Fife
Cherry, Joanna - SNP MP for Edinburgh South West
Clegg, Nick - Lib Dem MP for Sheffield Hallam
Clwyd, Ann - Labour MP for Cynon Valley
Corbyn, Jeremy - Labour MP for Islington North
Cowan, Ronnie - SNP MP for Inverclyde
Crawley, Angela - SNP MP for Lanark and Hamilton East
Davies, Geraint - Labour MP for Swansea West
Day, Martyn - SNP MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk
Docherty, Martin John - SNP MP for West Dunbartonshire
Dodds, Nigel - DUP MP for Belfast North
Donaldson, Jeffrey M - DUP MP for Lagan Valley
Donaldson, Stuart - SNP MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine
Dowd, Peter - Labour MP for Bootle
Durkan, Mark - SDLP MP for Foyle
Edwards, Jonathan - Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr
Farron, Tim - Lib Dem MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale
Fellows, Marion - SNP MP for Motherwell and Wishaw
Ferrier, Margaret - SNP MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West
Flynn, Paul - Labour MP for Newport West
Gethins, Stephen - SNP MP for North East Fife
Gibson, Patricia - SNP MP for North Ayrshire and Arran
Glindon, Mary - Labour MP for North Tyneside
Godsiff, Roger - Labour MP for Birmingham, Hall Green
Goodman, Helen - Labour MP for Bishop Auckland
Grady, Patrick - SNP MP for Glasgow North
Grant, Peter - SNP MP for Glenrothes
Gray, Neil - SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts
Greenwood, Margaret - Labour MP for Wirral West
Haigh, Louise - Labour MP for Sheffield, Heeley
Harris, Carolyn - Labour MP for Swansea East
Hayman, Sue - Labour MP for Workington
Hendry, Drew - SNP MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey
Hosie, Stewart - SNP MP for Dundee East
Hussain, Imran - Labour MP for Bradford East
Jones, Gerald - Labour MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney
Jones, Helen - Labour MP for Warrington North
Kaufman, Sir Gerald - Labour MP for Manchester Gorton
Kerevan, George - SNP MP for East Lothian
Kerr, Calum - SNP MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk
Khan, Sadiq - Labour MP for Tooting
Kinahan, Danny - UUP MP for South Antrim
Lamb, Norman - Lib Dem MP for North Norfolk
Lammy, David - Labour MP for Tottenham
Lavery, Ian - Labour MP for Wansbeck
Law, Chris - SNP MP for Dundee West
Lewis, Clive - Labour MP for Norwich South
Long Bailey, Rebecca - Labour MP for Salford and Eccles
Lucas, Caroline - Green MP for Brighton, Pavilion
MacNeil, Angus Brendan - SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar
Marris, Rob - Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West
Maskell, Rachael - Labour MP for York Central
Mc Nally, John - SNP MP for Falkirk
McCaig, Callum - SNP MP for Aberdeen South
McDonald, Andy - Labour MP for Middlesbrough
McDonald, Stewart - SNP MP for Glasgow South
McDonald, Stuart C - SNP MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East
McDonnell, Dr Alasdair - SDLP MP for Belfast South
McDonnell, John - Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington
McGarry, Natalie - SNP MP for Glasgow East
McInnes, Liz - Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton
McLaughlin, Anne - SNP MP for Glasgow North East
Meacher, Michael - Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton
Mearns, Ian - Labour MP for Gateshead
Monaghan, Carol - SNP MP for Glasgow North West
Monaghan, Dr Paul - SNP MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Moon, Madeleine - Labour MP for Bridgend
Morris, Grahame M - Labour MP for Easington
Mulholland, Greg - Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West
Mullin, Roger - SNP MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath
Newlands, Gavin - SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North
Nicolson, John - SNP MP for East Dunbartonshire
O’Hara, Brendan - SNP MP for Argyll and Bute
Osamor, Kate - Labour MP for Edmonton
Oswald, Kirsten - SNP MP for East Renfrewshire
Paisley, Ian - DUP MP for North Antrim
Paterson, Steven - SNP MP for Stirling
Pearce, Teresa - Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead
Pugh, John - Lib Dem MP for Southport
Rimmer, Marie - Labour MP for St Helens South and Whiston
Ritchie, Margaret - SDLP MP for South Down
Robertson, Angus - SNP MP for Moray
Salmond, Alex - SNP MP for Gordon
Saville Roberts, Liz - Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd
Shannon, Jim - DUP MP for Strangford
Sheppard, Tommy - SNP MP for Edinburgh East
Sherriff, Paula - Labour MP for Dewsbury
Siddiq, Tulip - Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn
Skinner, Dennis - Labour MP for Bolsover
Smith, Cat - Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood
Stephens, Chris - SNP MP for Glasgow South West
Stevens, Jo - Labour MP for Cardiff Central
Stringer, Graham - Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton
Thewliss, Alison - SNP MP for Glasgow Central
Thomson, Michelle - SNP MP for Edinburgh West
Weir, Mike - SNP MP for Angus
Whiteford, Dr Eilidh - SNP MP for Banff and Buchan
Whitford, Dr Philippa - SNP MP for Central Ayrshire
Williams, Hywel - Plaid Cymru MP for Argon
Williams, Mr Mark - Lib Dem MP for Ceredigion
Wilson, Corri - SNP MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock
Wilson, Sammy - DUP MP for East Antrim
Winnick, David - Labour MP for Walsall North
Wishart, Pete - SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire
Wright, Iain - Labour MP for Hartlepool
Zeichner, Daniel - Labour MP for Cambridge
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