What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the category “Labour leadership”

Labour Uncut Post – Why Labour Has To Win In 2012

This was published back on the nineteenth of October, and written after a long, hard shift at work. Please follow the link below:

labour-uncut.co.uk/2012/10/19/why-labour-has-to-win-in-2015

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Mcluskey Balls…

Well, day two of  Labour Conference ( after Labour Womens Conference yesterday), and we have our first official spat, between UNITE union leader Len Mcluskey, and Ed “not THAT Ed” Balls…

To be fair, Mr Mcluskey was supporting a compromise motion, merely “noting” disagreement with Ed Balls’ policy of pay restraint in the public sector, in defence of public sector jobs. In a sense, this is what union leaders are for – defending conditions, pay AND jobs, so it is hardly surprising that “Red Len” made this speech, and in the interests of debate, it was right for him, on behalf of his members, to do so. 

I suspect that Rob Marchant over at The Centre Left blog will disagree, in reasonable language, and then once again propose a divorce between Labour and the unions, in the interest of progress (or is that Progress?). Coupled with his interview in the Sunday Times, Mr Mcluskey has declared war on the right wing of Labour, and in particular the blairite organisation Progress and its supporters. Are they “cuckoos in the nest” of the Labour Party, as he asserts, or are they a legit part of our movement?  My feeling is that Mcluskey has some valid points, but that declaring war will do much more harm than good.

You see, many of those “cuckoos” are exactly the people who stayed with the party through thick and thin. Like Mcluskey, they didn’t leave over Iraq, the elder statesmen of the right fought elections and the SDP splits of the 1980s, they have shown the sort of loyalty to the party that should be commended. Politically, I have huge problems with many of their ideas, certainly with the way that Progress is funded, and its influence at the higher level of internal politics. But critics of Progress need to understand that these people have put in the hours, and taken the knocks that working for a political party year in year out brings.

Mcluskey’s true beefs with the Progress crowd, that they are ultimately against the union link, that they want to carry-on with the failed New Labour policies that ignored the needs of working people, and failed to combat increasing inequality, have a certain ring of truth about them. The tactics that Mcluskey is using however, only play into the hands of our Tory supporting press. And as for saying that your criticism is only of ed Balls, and not Miliband, well, that is not going to hold, is it? To my mind, Balls is probably right on pay restraint in general, although there are strong arguments for protecting and increasing the pay of the low paid…

And what of Ed B’s big speech today, straight after Mcluskey’s criticism? Would he fall into the trap of responding directly? Would we see a return to some level of infighting? Well, Ed is too long in the tooth to fall into that trap at least…

Ed gave us a comprehensive and engaging demolition of Coalition economic policy, and lack thereof. Coupled with the now usual stress on our unity, and, unlike the Liberal Democrats, it seems that Labour politicians actually can make funny one-liners… 

” If David Cameron’s butch, where does that leave George Osborne?”

Two years in for Ed M

So, it is two years since Ed Miliband gained the leadership of the Labour party, and over at Labour List, plenty of people are taking stock. I think we can be allowed, as Labour supporters, to raise two cheers so far…

We are convincingly ahead in the polls, and this side of the Tory conference, the narrative for the Government is definitely in their hands. Nothing looks as bad as a Government seemingly not in control, one that has also managed to present itself as being sticking firmly to its plans whilst U-turning everywhere; on Forests, on Pasty Tax, on almost anything rather than its most unpopular policies.

Mr Miliband has done something that no Labour Leader has done in eighteen years or more – he has questioned the authority of free markets, and whether they are always the only option when it comes to the economy. This, after the crash, is a vital move, giving hope that we can move towards a modern Social Democratic government in 2015.

With his handling of the Leveson Inquiry and its fallout, Ed has been widely praised. Rightly so, he played a good game and has had the Government on the back foot ever since. He backed voting reform, without being associated with they dismal failure of the Yes campaign over AV.

As leader, he has grown in his role – for all the sniping of the right of the party (someone mention Progress?), he has managed to best an increasingly loud and puce David Cameron in The House of Commons, and has silenced (for now) the internal critics oh, and John “Rental” Rentoul.

Midway through this Parliament, the media, and the rest of us, can see Ed Miliband as PM, or at least a serious contender. The low personal rating as opposed to David Cameron as a minor worry to me, as it is normal for a sitting Prime Minister to look more, well, Prime Ministerial. These figures can change, and it would take little to change David Cameron from popular to unpopular. He is already out of favour in his own party, much earlier than Edward Heath was in the 1970s, and there are already stirrings on his back benches.

Milibands’ first speech toy Conference encapsulated al the reasons to support him – including drawing a line under the Blair/Brown years, notably on Iraq. His positioning himself (and us) as an inclusive opposition, trying to heal the rifts of the last eleven years was, and remains a masterstroke.

Yet I do worry. I worry that the polls are just a mid-term blip, that someone will start the back office sniping once again. That Ken Livingstone will try to stuff up Conference from his seat on the NEC.

I also worry that Eds’ management of the part factions in the Shadow Cabinet is storing up problems – Stephen Twigg at Education is a prime example , but others, such as Liam Byrne remain in place.

I worry that those years spent as a SpAd, all that triangulation, all that hanging out in Westminster, far away from the housing estates and run-down town centres where Labour needs to make a difference, will reassert itself.

So two cheers for Ed, so far so good, but we all have much more work to do to win…

Why, just once, Labour should back the Coalition…

Tonight in the Commons, Labour MPs have an opportunity to show disaffected Lib Dems that there is an alternative to Clegg.

Well, that’s the short tactical argument for voting for Lords Reform, of course there is a longer, much more principled set of reasons, to whit:

Ever since its foundation, the Labour Movement, of which The Labour Party is an intrinsic part (whatever Progress or Bob Crow say), has fought against entrenched power and privilege.  Go back as far as the Putney Debates of the seventeenth century if you like, you will always find slim red thread through radical, socialist and trades union positions on the issue of state-controlled preferment.

 True enough, New Labour at best fudged this, and with its leading protagonists and cheerleaders spending so much effort cosying up to Oligarchs and shysters, we nearly lost any opportunity to win democratic change.

Once before in this Parliament, over voting reform, we have seen the very worst example of parliamentary conservatism and narrow partisanship triumph over common sense and a move towards justice. We must not let it happen again.

By supporting the call for reform, Ed Miliband is staying true to the words and spirit of his first speech as Leader, and being true to the spirit of the pioneers who founded the Labour Representation Committee over a century ago.

Re-read your Thomas Paine, I promise you you will find no argument justifying a second chamber composed of placemen, high-born, or failed politicians (and of course Baroness Warsi).

Lord Puttnam and Bragg are no doubt wonderful, intelligent men, yet I hardly think that this trumps popular sovereignty. And they can always lunch at The Garrick and Groucho clubs instead. To paraphrase Bagehot, intellectual support for The House of Lords rarely survives first contact with the actual institution.

To side with the right of the Tory Party for the sake of causing the coalition one more embarrassment is both short sighted and petty. After all, we have yet to exhaust Osbornes’ Budget.

As a Party, we must be positioning ourselves as the reasonable alternative to the Coalition, which means finding common ground with Lib Dems, and Greens on issues such as democratic reform where we can. By doing this, we make Nick Cleggs job much harder at the next election.

On News International, & on Banking, the Labour Front Bench have scored two goals against Cameron and Clegg. Now lets make it a hat trick.

Let the Tories play games against each other on this one.

 

POLITICAL REALITIES – Part One

Now that things have calmed down a bit since the local elections and Ed’s reshuffle, I thought I would write a couple of pieces on where we as a party are, and how we got here. I think that all too often those of us interested in politics can get sucked into the short term news cycle, and I plead guilty to this as much as anyone else. However it is important for me to take a look at the recent past, if only to help me redefine where I think we stand…

1: NUMBER CRUNCHING

So, lets go back to the start: In 1997 Labour won a landslide with over 42% of the votes cast, some 13,518,167 votes in all. This was our biggest share of the vote since 1966, and with high hopes, Labour went into Majority government for the first time since 1974.

Victory was repeated in 2001 on a similar scale, although we lost the votes of a staggering 2,793,214 people in four years under Tony Blair. Low turnout ensured that our share was still around 40%, and New Labour continued, seemingly unassailable.

At his third attempt in 2005, after the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq , the party under Tony Blair saw its vote reduced by a further 1,172,517 to 9,552,436 votes. The war in Iraq also contributed to a rise in popularity for the Liberal Democrats under Charles Kennedy and Alex Salmond’s SNP.

Finally, back in May 2010, Labour under Gordon Brown polled 8,606,517 votes, and just 29% of all votes cast. That was a further 945,915 down from the previous general election, although this was a considerably lower fall than in either 2001 or 2005.

The May 2010 result ensured a Hung Parliament, although it was clear almost from the first declarations that Labour had lost, even if the Tories had not won. It also meant that a stable Coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems, possibly also with Plaid Cymru and the SNP was simply not possible. Simple arithmetic dictated that if a Coalition could be formed, it would be between the Tories and Lib Dems.

To me, one of the salient facts would be that under Tony Blair, over two elections we lost the support of almost four million voters – 3,965,731 to be exact.

Arguably, Gordon Brown had not so far to fall, but from 2005 to 2010 our vote dropped by just under one million. It lost us the General Election, but I cannot help thinking that had we lost fewer votes between 1997 and 2005, then maybe we could have still been in government today.

Had we lost, say half of those votes lost in that period, then in 2010 we would have polled somewhere in the region of  10,589,382 votes – more than in 2010 and close to our 2005 result. So the questions we must ask ourselves must include why did we lose so much trust between 1997 and 2005?

Could it be that Tony Blair, as much as Gordon Brown was a vote loser after 1997? On the face of it the answer may be yes…

So what lost us those votes?

  BEST WHEN WE’RE LABOUR…”

…to be continued…

OH! WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING!

And as the results continue to come in, oh what a beautiful day?

Lib Dems trounced nationally, Labour winning over 500 seats and over twenty councils throughout England and Wales. We have taken seats from the Tories, BNP, Lib Dems, Plaid and UKIP. And it looks as though the SNP may not have won Glasgow as predicted. From Great Yarmouth to Plymouth this is a great result for Labour and Ed Milibands leadership.  Even in Bradford, where we lost seats to Respect, overall we have gained two seats!

Harlow, Southhampton, Dudley – directly from the Tories

Birmingham, Carlisle, Derby, Norwich, Reading – from No Overall Control.

The London results are not yet in, and Scotland is only counting now. The Ken & Boris show is over – too close to call, although whichever way the votes go, David Cameron will have to watch his back…

 

The Soul of a Poet & the hands of an Artist…

… but they have to be back by a week on Thursday…

Having seen the triumph of fiction over fact that was “The Iron Lady”, I was thinking about the “image thing”, and the constant belittling of Labour Leaders. The magnificent Clement Attlee was a case in point – almost always portrayed as dry to the point of aridity, in fact inside the reserved exterior lay the passionate heart of a poet.

To prove this, here is one of his earliest published works, from 1909;

In Limehouse, in Limehouse before the break of day

I hear the feet of many men who go upon their way.

Who wander through the city

The grey and cruel city

Through streets that have no pity

The streets where men decay.

In Limehouse, in Limehouse by night as well as day

I hear the feet of children that go to work or play.

Of children born to sorrow,

The workers of tomorrow,

How shall they work tomorrow

Who get no bread today?

In Limehouse, in Limehouse today and every day

I see the weary mothers who sweat their souls away.

Poor,tired mothers trying

To hush the feeble crying

Of little babies dying

For want of bread today.

In Limehouse, in Limehouse I’m dreaming of the day

When evil times shall perish and be driven clean away.

When father, child and mother

Shall live and love each other

And brother help his brother

In happy work and play.

These are not the words of some prim and paltry lawyer, nor the vainglorious bombast of some posing buffoon. Clement Attlee dedicated his life to improving the lot of the workers, particularly those of his adopted East End home. In that, he was not alone in his generation. Not for him the learned phrases of the petty Oxbridge braggart, nor the empty posturing of the machine politician.

Sadly, in 2012 the good citizens of Limehouse will have no candidate of his stature standing for Mayor of London. It seems that today’s polite political class have no time left for passion or good works, only vanity and empty lies. With few exceptions, they certainly have no shame as they prostrate themselves before their tax-avoiding masters.

And for all the heaps of prose they generate, they cannot match the masters’ poetry for its clean elegance and noble passion.

Sadly, it is possible to read the verses above and still recognise not only our Capital, but every town and city in our barely United Kingdom, thanks in great part to that great heroine, Margaret Hilda Thatcher. Somebody should tell Meryl Streep before she gives her winners’ speech.

In my opinion, our body politic is much worse off without poets such as these…

ED,WHAT ARE YOU THINKING????

Much toss is being written and spoken about Maurice Glassman’s  “Blue Labour” witterings, and he seems to have Ed’s ear at the moment…

Clem is all for a bit of Labour nostalgia – how could I not be? Just look at the site name. But Glassman has made some pretty fundamental errors in his analisys of pre-1945 Labour, and has also made a very stupid error in political judgement…

Last year, it was all about the “Red Tory”- Philip Blond’s supposed re-jigging of One-Nation Toryism. I see very little of this in evidence as The Coalition rips the heart from the NHS, attacks minorities and pursues its Monetarist economic agenda with uncommon zeal.

Glassmans response – under the title “Blue Labour” looks for all the world like nothing so much as a pale imitation of failed Policy-Wonkage on the right – never a good move. In fact, it looks suspiciously similar to “The Project” launched in the early nineties by Mandleson, Blair and Brown, now thankfully over, or so we thought…

In truth, the “statism” that Glassman attributes to the 1945 Labour Government was far more complex and subtle than he portrays. And the “golden age” he finds before this date includes most of the major figures of Labours greatest Government. To whit:

” Given the choice between Liberty and Equality, I would choose Liberty every time.” – Ernest Bevin, a major figure in the TUC who pressed for support of the Spanish Republican Government, whilst fighting against stalinist influence withing the TGWU and wider Labour Movement.

Herbert Morrison – as Labour Leader of the London County Council, oversaw the great slum clearances of the 1930s improving Londoners lives for the better, working with Local Authorities, and often in the teeth of Central Government opposition. As a Labour minister, worked with Nye Bevan to create the NHS, which was initially modeled on  locally accountable provision for local needs – Bevan’s ideas for its growth envisaged the Health Centre at the heart of the community, and Community Health Councils – an extension of Municipal Socialism.

Major Attlees own brand of Socialism, rooted in his experiences in the East End and influenced by the Guild school of thought was also deeply patriotic – this man took  Turkish Bullet for goodness sake!  And was one of the two last men off the beach at Suvla Bay.The mainstream of Labour opinion has never, unlike the far Left, been unpatriotic – without Attlee in 1940, Churchill may never have become Leader. Without Bevin, there may very well have been no Attlee. Attlees own conservatism on constitutional issues may be decried now, but you cannot deny his love of Crown and Country, as unaffected and honest as Churchills.

To the end of his days, even an “inveterate peace monger” such as Micheal Foot remained intensely patriotic, and in 1982 his speech calling for war with fascist Argentina was declared the best in the debate – unsurprising from the author of “The Guilty Men” really…

In reality, the 1945 Government had to use the means at its disposal in very tough times to rebuild Britain. The war left us broke and devastated. The economy was already pretty much centrally controlled, and had been for six years, out of necessity. In most legislation in the social sphere, although centrally planned, services were planned to be locally administered and accountable. And it is difficult to question the patriotism of a Government that stood up to Stalin, developed a nuclear deterrent, helped form NATO, fought communism in Greece and Korea, whilst overseeing a massive retreat from Empire, with little help, if any, from our allies, the USA. 

Oh, and there was a Royal Wedding too…

So lets have no more jabber about “Blue Labour”, instead let us revive something that “informed opinion” has long derided – Red Patriotism.

 

An Evening with Bananaman…

A cunning email has reached Clem from Hackney and Shoreditch Labour Party, inviting me to the annual dinner – guest speaker a certain David Miliband.

I’m all a fluster at this tempting offer, but who should I take? Lady P says no, and her redoubdtable mother will be too busy (I would have loved to witness the heckles), so that only leaves Hillary Clinton. Who gets embarrassingly “Mrs Robinson” when David hoves into view ( “Oh David, show me your Whitewater…”)

And there is one other problem – what do I call him? I have settled on Bananaman, after that photo – as “Monkeyboy” is too close to “Monkey”, and I liked the TV series as a kid – chop-sockey heaven at teatime.

The menu includes Banana Fritters, there would be the chance of making another weak joke, or even telling him I voted for Ed, it could make decent copy…

Oh, what to do? Any ideas comrades? Should I stay in, or should I go? 

PROTEST, POLITICS & OOH, VIOLENCE I GUESS…

LAST SATURDAY AROUND A QUARTER OF A MILLION PEOPLE MARCHED PEACEFULLY THROUGH THE STREETS OF LONDON AGAINST THE COALITIONS CUTS PROGRAMME. Many more stayed at home, worried (if the twitter and facebook feeds are accurate) about Police “kettling” tactics seen over the previous few years.

Yet as far as the mainstream media is concerned, the story is one of “violent disorder”, of wanton destruction of property and mindless violence. Whilst I am more than happy to defend direct action by groups such as UK Uncut, who have kept tax-dodging companies in the public eye, it is impossible to defend groups such as the “Black Bloc”, the SWP and others who promote violence for their own ends, regardless of wider consequences.

However, slogging through the morass of rightwing coverage in the last few days, I have to say that it is in the main fraudulent in the extreme. We have the Boris standard beareres, Daily Mail readers, Cameroons and little Nickys brave souls all united in one assertion – that violence and politics do not mix. Ed Miliband made much the same point on Saturday as well. Yet we seem to be pursuing political goals in Libya by bombing airfields and targeting tanks in the desert. In case anyone is wondering, the RAF is indeed a violent organisation, well trained, and equipped to wreak havoc upon the Queens enemies.

“But” you say “thats different – the Forces are the legitimate source of violence within Britain, and are under control of our elected Government.” That, as far as it goes is true, but not the whole picture when it comes to political violence in British history.

There is no political party in British politics today that does not have its roots in violent conflict. Leaving aside the obvious candidates of the BNP and SWP, lets look at the mainstream parties;

The Scottish Nationalists trace their legitimacy back to Flodden, Culloden and are the first to raise the banners of ancient martial prowess when it suits them. Plaid Cymru hark back to Owain Glendwr – hardly a saint when it came to battle.

The Labour Party and the wider Labour Movement have a history that goes back at least to The Peasants Revolt, and traditions that encompass the Agitators , Levellers and Diggers of the English Civil Wars. The first shots of the modern class war were fired on Marston Moor. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we look to figures such as Thomas Paine, Feargus O’Connor, internationally, we admire Abraham Lincoln, Danton, Herbert, Clouseret and the men of The Eureka Stockade. Is it too much to note that all of these figures countenanced violence? Even the Suffragettes had a militant campaign.

The Liberal wing of the Liberal Democrats may only look back as far as John Stuart Mill, yet historically they are the heirs of The Whigs – themselves the heirs of the more conservative wing of the Parliamentary side during our Civil Wars. And the cheerleaders for Culloden and the Highland Clearances.

And The Tories. Historically born from the Royalist Rump a bunch of Cavaliers who were more than ready to do the Kings bidding. In the early eighteenth century, when out of favour, they had no scruple in giving military plans to the French Monarchy. They were happy to wage war on the American Colonies, invade revolutionary France, set off a bloodbath in Ireland. In the nineteenth, they were the party of both reaction at home, overseeing the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, and Imperialism abroad. In the early twentieth century, they were willing to bring the country to the verge of civil war over Ireland in 1914 “Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right!” they cried. In the twenties and thirties, they flirted with Fascism, and in the nineteen seventies and eighties, they backed and supported the Juntas of Chile and Argentina in their anti-communist crusade. One Government minister gave a speech in Buenos Aires in 1981, stating that Britain and the  Argentina of  torture and the disappeared were united against the same enemies. In 1982, the good people of Port Stanley found this to be not quite the case…

…four miners died during the great strike of 1984/5. Shoot to kill. The Bloody Sunday Massacre of 1972 all these happened under Tory rule.

The Police are a (supposedly) accountable source of legitimate violence in our society, governed by its laws and customs.

For twenty-five years, middle England has been filling the seats of “Les Miserables” – a musical that makes heroes of the ABC Society – students who were willing to overthrow the state in 1830s France – do you hear the people sing..?

To deny that violence is part of politics is historically dishonest, and morally suspect – especially in the light of the events of the past few months. Whilst opposing those self-appointed guardians of “the revolutionary flame”, who have no interest in anything but furthering their agendas, regardless of real needs. I do not support the vandalism and barricades of last Saturday – yet I would like to see the whole picture. we already know that The Met like breaking heads and often arrest the wrong person. I also have no problem in general with non-violent direct action. I certainly question the wisdom of using such tactics on Saturday – it would have been better not to take the limelight away from mass protest.

Gandhi once said that “Poverty is the worst form of violence” and he had a point. Yet those who smashed windows on Saturday fundamentally missed the point, leaving all of us open to attacks from the hypocrites of the right.

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