What would Clement do?

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

Archive for the category “Socialism”

OUTRAGEOUS!!!!!!

Well fiddle-de-dee! There has been a huge amount of bollocks written and talked about Sarah Teather discovering her moral compass. Two thousand pounds every month would indeed be a very generous wage to be unemployed on, unfortunately the truth is somewhat different. The vast majority of the money spent on the unemployed goes directly into the hands of complete bastards. Sorry, lets call a spade a spade. Landlords.

Sarah Teather, a Lib Dem MP, had absolutely nothing to do until 2010. I believe that she spent her days watching “Homes Under The Hammer” or some such property porn, where the middle classes indulge their fantasies of unearned income. As someone who thinks unfettered markets are good, she still thinks that we should all pick up the tab for these latter day Rachmans. I look forward to the government that brings back proper public housing, and rent controls, regardless of what bankers think.

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Did Ed need Dinosaurs????

On balance, I think yes, Daniel was right. Pretty much ANYTHING can be improved with Dinosaurs.

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?”

DEATH & TAXES PART TWO – ITS THIS STUPID ECONOMY, STUPID!!!!

Last Sunday, The Observer newspaper did a service to the people of the world, although in a week when pointless metal-encased flames and uniformly branded sportswear are the biggest news in town, you would look hard in the rest of the British media to find out.

In a series of articles, and in conjunction with the campaign group Tax Justice Network, London’s most venerable liberal(ish) weekly exposed the true state of the world economy. It is not a pretty sight, but at last, we critics of trickle-down free market horseshit have some reasonably accurate figures to throw back at Adam Smith/Cato Institute blowhards. Not to mention third wayers like Progress…

The former Chief Economist at McKinsey, Mr James Henry has just produced the most detailed estimates of the offshore economy – you know, all that moolah stashed away in tax havens from the Caribbean to the Channel Islands, by way of Switzerland and Lichtenstein. This is forensic accounting at its best, echoing the work over the years of Mr “follow the money”, Greg Palast. 

To quote from the front page:

Their wealth’s, as Henry puts it, “protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy.”

Helpfully, the report can quantify in numbers both the approximate number of individuals and what the probably keep hidden, although the report is careful not to attempt to put a price on the number of apartments in Chelsea, Canalettos on the wall, or Van Gogh sketches owned by this global elite. The figures are pretty instructive:

  1. The Approximate amount of wealth held “offshore” in tax havens – £13 TRILLION to £20 TRILLION. Thats between $21 and $32 TRILLION.
  2. The approximation number of people hiding money offshore around the globe – ten million. 
  3. Estimated amount owned by just 92,000 of the above ten million – $9.8 TRILLION.

I suppose that we can now put a number on the size of our true global Ruling Class, and, as a result, we know have to radically rethink our idea of the gap between the rich and poor, as both the poor and the very rich are now palpably underrepresented. It also puts the supposed “death of class politics” (TM Mssrs P. Mandelson, W. Clinton, A.L.Blair) into its proper perspective.

Typically, the biggest losers in the period measured, from the 1970’s to 2010, have been Oil and Mineral rich developing nations and the former Soviet bloc. Russia lost $798 Billion since 1990, the Ukraine $167 Billion,  & the Kazakhs $138 Billion. Predictably, Africa has suffered badly, Nigeria bleeding $306 Billion and Ivory Coast $141 Billion respectively. 

But these are notorious Kleptocracies surely? This doesn’t happen in Democracies does it? Err, yup ‘fraud so – Mexico lost $417 Billion, Venezuela $406 Billion, Brazil a whopping $520 Billion. to name but three…

Fans of the Chinese model of free market dictatorship will be ashamed to learn that since the 1980’s, her economy has lost a staggering $1,189 Billion to offshore tax havens. The rest of us are not all that surprised…

To put this in perspective, if the Super Rich paid only 30% tax on their interest, it would amount to more than the rich economies spend in a year on aid – some $189 Billion. (That’s if they only “earned” 3% interest)

The figure of £13 Trillion is a sum that dwarfs the combined economies of the USA and Japan.

Under increased pressure to do at least something, the British Government recently entered into the mother of all sweetheart deals with Switzerland and its Bankers – UK residents are going to be able to make a one-time payment of between 21% and 41% to clear the slate on undeclared assets. This allows tax dodgers to still avoid both the current 50% top tax rate, and the future 45% rate.

One of the most industrious founders of the UK-based tax haven industry was reportedly one Ian Cameron, father of the Right Honourable David Cameron, our Prime Minister.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has repeatedly made statements to the effect that, since 2008, it is time to stop “bashing bankers” and let them get on with it, and his hopes to make the City of London some sort of “haven” for international finance. He also trousers £250,000 per annum for writing a column for Telegraph Newspapers, owned by the Barclay brothers, who are all registered offshore for tax purposes. This amount is somewhat more than his substantial salary for running our Capital City. There is, of course, no suggestion of any linkage here.

” …COME IN G – GEORGE, COME IN G – GEORGE…”

…Or how to be an Old Labour romantic…

I always shed a tear when the young Kim Hunter falls desperately, hopelessly in love with David Niven in Powell and Pressbergers’ “A Matter of Life and Death”. Perhaps my love of melodrama gets the better of me, or the nostalgia for a time I never new. Maybe it is just Powell and Pressberger, after all, the ending of “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” gets me the same way. Perhaps it is Jack Cardiff – the “colour merchant” who shot these two masterpieces, and many more.

I suspect that it is more than this, as when David Niven says that he is “Conservative by instinct, Labour by experience” that is the moment that I well up…

..I can’t help it, you see I am one of that lost tribe, the Old Labour Romantics. I suppose that being politically awoken by the Miners’ Strike and Billy “Between the Wars” Bragg doesn’t help, but that is just what I am. I must confess my sin, that I look back upon the history of our Party and Movement, and my heroes are the Major, Hardie, Maxton, Lansbury. They are the Cooks – both Robin and A J, Bevin and Bevan. They are John Smith and Kinnock, Foot and Mikardo, and hundreds of others that fought the good fight. The unsung as well as the famous, those who fought and negotiated, who put our people first, who had a sense of what was right, a sense of decency.

Bill Morris, Len Murray, Jack Jones, Manny Shinwell and a host of others who did what they thought right, and never wavered in the tasks before them.

The phrase “Old Labour Romantic” has been used to describe that great journalist and biographer Francis Beckett. I suppose that it corresponds to anyone who sees the future of this country as being in the creation of a more tolerant, open, and equal society.

I am working to make the future Red, but maybe, just maybe my heaven is in black and white…

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…

Utoya nine months on…

Today, as the trial of Anders Breivik gets under way, I am thinking about solidarity, about the family and friends of those seventy seven mainly young people murdered in cold blood last July in Norway.

Nothing can ever replace a life cut short, nor could I ever dare to imagine what their relatives and mates have been going through for nine months. Norway is a small place, it is estimated that one in four of the population knew one of the butchered. They were killed as “legitimate targets” in Breiviks opinion because they were members of the Norwegian Labour Party, fellow democratic socialists to us here in Britain. They were, and remain, our brothers and sisters.

As a civilised nation, Norway has no death penalty, so the martyrdom that the assassin seeks will elude him. In place of that, we have seventy seven heroes between the ages of fourteen and fifty one, with an average age of just under twenty.

They died as true martyrs to the causes of tolerance, decency and democracy. Today I salute them, and all in our worldwide movement for justice and human rights. I salute the fundamental decency of the Norwegian people.

Our only lasting memorial can be the re-doubling of our efforts to combat the messages of hate spread by groups such as the BNP and EDL, and hate-filled clerics of every religion. We must concentrate on what unites the vast majority of humanity, regardless of race and creed, once more we must call for the workers of the world to unite, and make all men brothers.

If we could stand silent at this years May Day marches and rallies, it would be a fitting tribute.

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.

 

WHY I AM VOTING YES TO AV

In two weeks time, we get the first chance to fundamentally change our political system since universal adult suffrage was achieved in the 1940s – when domestic servants were enfranchised, and Oxbridge types lost their two votes.

I have already said that given the two choices on offer, I back AV over no change, and as the campaigns draw to a close, it is time to re-state my reasons…

Firstly, as some opponents of AV have already commented elsewhere, First Past The Post is manifestly undemocratic. Most governments do not represent will of the people by votes cast, let alone the total electorate. In the 1980s, taking the whole electorate, The Tories won no more than 36% of possible votes at any election. The same applies to New Labour, and to this Coalition. Only 217 out of 650 MPs returned in 2010 had over 50% of the vote.

Secondly, the great, and largely ignored seat theft that this Government is perpetrating against you and I. Regardless of how we vote in the Referendum, 50 seats will be axed, at a stroke making our established political class stronger, and also more distant from us. The only measure within our power right now to even slightly ameliorate this would be to make sure that every MP needed at least 50% of the votes cast in their constituency. That would be AV.

Thirdly, if passed, AV would give impetus to Lords Reform – lets kick the unelected into touch.

AV is just a start, and we could further modify the system to create a more proportional one after the barriers to reform come down.

AV is no block to radical reform – it is radical reform.

Look at those who back the current system – Press Barons, The Tax Payers Alliance (led by a non-dom), and Tories, with conservative New Labourites and a smattering of Blairites.

I would like to see a system where every MP has to reach out beyond the usual middle class middle ground of voters – with AV, not only second preferences but voter registration and participation become key.

I urge you all to think hard about this – we need a better way, and a better Government.

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