What would Clement do?

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

Archive for the category “Student Fees”


Today is polling day in local government across the UK.

Here in London, we elect our Mayor and the GLA, & across the country you get a say in how your local services are managed.

Please remember the awful example of Tory-run Suffolk, where the council is trying to destroy jobs, and make the council “virtual”. The former Chief Executive was payed more than the Prime Minister! In fact, you will find that amongst the unelected Chief Executives, those with huge pay-packets tend to be employed by Tory councils.

After a campaign best described as one huge dirty trick, Mr Johnson and Mr Livingstone will have to wait for the votes to be counted.

The choice is clear – vote Boris for ineffective, though amusing government. Cutting Police numbers, stockpiling Plastic Bullets, ignoring inner London, cutting transport projects. Rambling on in a funny way. Denying the importance of investigations into the corrupting influence of Murdoch. Denying growth. Pressing for tax cuts for his friends and masters. Earning £250,000 outside of his actual job – paid ultimately by tax exiles. His utter incompetence in dealing with the RMT – after all, we have had many more tube strikes under Johnson in 4 years than we had under Ken in 8.

Brian Paddick, Jenny Jones and Ms Benita cannot win, but they have all raised serious points along the way. Johnson will ignore everything they have said once in City Hall, and carry on with Coleman, Malthouse et al.

For Lib Dem, Green and independent voters, the second choice is clear – it must be Ken Livingstone.

– A vote for Ken Livingstone is a vote for fair fares on London Transport, investment in infrastructure, creating jobs. It is a vote for a City Hall that will strive to unite Londoners, not divide them. It is a vote for substance over style. Restoring the EMA Londonwide, a lifelong dedication to London, a proven track record spanning over thirty years.

Of course, the national issues matter – Economic mismanagement, making us pay for the Bankers’ mistakes, pasty taxes, the amazing inability to read a calendar. Cutting too far, too fast, leading us back into recession. Gutting the armed forces, trussing up the NHS to sell off to their mates. Student Fees.Oh, and should I mention Murdoch???

Today you get a voice. Today, just for once, shout “ENOUGH!!!” And vote Labour.



Left Foot Forward, Or A Right Load Of Old Cobblers?

A post left on Will Straws’ site Left Foot Forward has opened a debate on where we are going in the Labour Party, and predictably it focuses attention on not moving too far left.

Forgive this post, it will be erratic, as its now six in the morning, and I am just going to read up a little and get some shut-eye….(06.00hrs). Ah, that’s better…

The article – “Labour Must Speak Not Only For Organised Labour” by Rob Marchant, starts off in a reasonable tone, yet ends up, like the deply popular and loved Tessa Jowell, pressing in effect for a shift to the right.

Rob starts off identifying Labours two historic constituencies, Public and Private sector Organised Labour, and asks whether we are ignoring the growing numbers of Private sector workers with no Trades Union. As one of these, I suppose I should respond.

Mr Marchant writes of the “genius” of New Labour (a good indication of where he is going) in reaching out to these workers. In this, like some others, he has rewritten history to suit his ends. Under Clement Attlee in 1945, Wilson in 1966 and Blair in 1997, Labour won by connecting with significant numbers outside of our heartlands, this is nothing new. a brief look at the period between 1992 and 1997 shows that we would have won in’97 with the late John Smith – our most mourned leader never to be PM. It hardly took genius to beat John Major in 1997,but it takes chutzpah to forget that. It is also a feat of selective memory not to recall both the loss of two million votes between 2001 and 2005, and the utter unpopularity of Tony Blair by the time of his exit.

Mr Marchant also seemingly discounts the “grey vote”, which is odd, since it is proven that there is a direct correlation between voting and age…

In response, Darrell Goodliffe at Left Futures is no less strident – indeed his article is the very model of  polemical passion. For Darrell, the centre ground of politics is a fantasy comparable to The Tooth Fairy. My nephew will be disturbed to find out that The Tooth Fairy is a fantasy, but no matter. As far as Mr Goodliffe is concerned, it only exists in the mind of idealogues who wish to push Labour ever rightwards.

He makes the point ignored by Rob that real wages are falling across the board, and that this is comparable to the 1920s, to quote the Mervyn King. This is important – very few non-unionised private sector workers probably have any sympathy with the huge bonuses in the City, nor do they see any benefit for them in their bosses continued pay rises. At the same time, they see cuts in services that they use and need.

At this point, Mr Goodliffe becomes almost a parody of the kind of writing that can be found in any copy of Socialist Worker, or worse, an old copy of Militant, circa 1988.  Darrell wants to see “a trenchant critique of a capitalist system which has failed not just the poorest … but also failed the hopes & dreams of anybody who is not a member of the super-rich elite.”

Fine stuff, although unlikely to encourage anyone not already versed in left wing politics to join in is it?

In response to both these articles I say the following – yes, the centre ground is vitally important in politics, and the point of political parties is to shift it.

The Economic Crash has shaken the certainties of the post-1974 monetarist consensus. this takes time to feed into the political system, but the signs are there. Non-Unionised private sector workers, such as myself, are scared, and have seen wage cut and redundancies. we see a Government of Millionaires warning us not to “price ourselves out of a job”, whilst watching our bosses and bankers trouser huge bonuses. We want fair taxation, and that means more bands at the higher levels of pay. We want an end to tax avoidance, and to the corruption in the higher levels of the state. we would like meaningful rights to join a Union, where we could be ensured that we won’t be blacklisted, particularly in hospitality. We like the minimum wage, and we love the NHS.

We are the people that both Marchant and Goodliffe should be campaigning and organising to get to the March 26th TUC Demo.


The problem with Leninism…

Hey ho, lets go…

After Laurie Penny’s recent article in the Grauniad, Alex Callico Knickers of the SWP, and his band of plucky Leninist parrots have resurfaced…

Laurie can of course defend herself and views much better than I can, but with the recent student demos giving a filip to the shrinking hard left,I think it germain to weigh in, as an ex-member of both Militant and of the SWP, and now as a proud Democratic Socialist.

The Leninist theory at the root of SWP/Socialist Party/CPGB/etc.etc. practice is one that has blighted the Left for a century, and is responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity that took place during the Twentieth Century. Yet many good class fighters throughout the world proudly bore the name of Lenin aloft and in their hearts. They were at best mistaken. Millions died to prove the theories wrong, many were proud Bolsheviks of many years standing, undone by the logic of their beliefs. Many millions more were ordinary workers, peasants and soldiers.

The Vanguard Party substitutes itself for the class. The Party Organisation for the Party, The Central Committee for The Organisation, and The Leader for the Central Committee. Trotsky pointed this out as long ago as 1902.

How many examples do you need? Russia, Spain, the awful mess in interwar Germany, China, North Korea, Cuba, Prague 1968, Poland 1980, the list goes on. And then there are the parties, both orthodox and trotskyist in the west – their zig-zags and deviations, their abandonment of womens’ and gay rights in favour of currying favour with tiny Islamicist groups … not to mention the strangulation of free Trades Unions and all dissenting voices – both Socialist and otherwise.

The expulsions, bullying, both mental and physical, the outright lies perpetrated as fact whenever the “line” changes…

Alex Callinicos is apparently a respected academic Marxist Philosopher, with tenure, so we must pay heed to the comfortable gentleman of 1968. He is no more relevant than “Congratulations” by Cliff Richard, also of 1968.

There have been, and no doubt still are good socialists in the SWP and other factions, there are those who would describe themselves as Marxist-Leninists who I would be happy to march alongside, and I have no time for witch hunts, but  for sheer pointlessness it would be hard to match their party activity. Better they use their time fruitfully rather than staging “interventions”, or selling papers.

I will give one concrete example of Leninist practice from the early 1990s: A young student comrade of about 20 ends up at a party where he then sleeps with both a man and a woman. He is a little immature, and, as many are when young, sexually confused. Embarrassed, he hopes that the incident will be forgotten and pass, as he now feels he may know that he is straight. Sadly the couple were also party members. A week later, despite his evident misgivings, he is dragooned into a party “intervention” into the founding meeting of the citys OUTRAGE Group – it is his socialist duty, it is explained, because he has recently slept with a man, to inject some socialist politics into this “bourgeois” protest group.

A good time was had by none. No useful point was served.

Aah, but it was so romantic to be caught up in Revolutionary politics…

“Soviet Communism is the illegitimate child of Karl Marx and Catherine The Great.” – How true Clement, how true…

Clem’s Christmas Roundup

It was (almost) Christmas Eve  babe,

and in the drunk tank,

an old man said to me,

” I could go nuclear…”

So time to take stock of the year, and consider the good and bad that we’ve been through…

First of all, losing the election has been a massive blow, yet Gordon Brown managed to leave office with more dignity and in better grace than David Laws did less than a month later. A fundamentally good man made way for a shyster.

The coalition was initially heralded as a “New kind of politics”, yet has settled down into the most radically conservative Government  since 1983. Everyone agreed that Ham Face and Little Nicky looked jolly nice on the lawn, giving civil partnerships a boost.

The Government decided that you and I would be better off with 50 less MPs, as it cost too much for us to have adequate representation. We all agreed that 50 less Coalition MPs would have been a good thing. the Guardian felt silly, and The Daily Mail  was grumpy, possibly that UKIP didn’t win outright. The Daily Telegraph did its best to bring the Coalition down by chatting to Liberal Democrats.Sales of Werther’s Originals plummeted in Tory seats.

The BBC found the correct term for a Conservative Culture Secretary. Jeremy should go far…

Liberal Democrats have been apologising to their best friends after admitting they don’t really like them, and apologising to the rest of us for making such a rotten deal. they still held on to the Ministerial cars though…

It was decided that not only would tuition fees have to treble, but that funding for Higher Education would be cut by 80%. A well organised, fearsomely armed group took control of the streets around Westminster – The Metropolitan Police.

The Duchess of Cornwall was poked with a stick, and (oh, the irony) went on to a Royal variety performance featuring 25 minutes of Les Miserables – featuring student revolutionaries waving flags – ” Did she hear the people sing…?” don’t worry Camilla old girl, they were French.

Speaking of our allies, it was decided that the Royal Navy should specialise in becoming a landlord – renting out 50% of our carrier force to Les Bleus. Can’t see them defending the Falklands, but still, annoyed a few yanks…

Wikileaks told us what sensible people already knew, namely that diplomats don’t always like their hosts.

Julian Assange may or may not be someone that you would like your daughter to meet on a regular basis.

Once again, the world failed to find a collective answer to Global Warming, whilst we shivered a bit, and were given no credible answer as to why the country cannot deal with a little snow. Boris claimed to have bought the deserts of Araby, and then slunk off to cancel FIFAs bribe – sorry, all expenses paid stay at The Dorchester for the duration of The Olympics.

Gideon Osborne, The 14th Earl of Whyborn, sat on the Treasury Benches looking more and more like a pale evil toad. Dr Fox ( no, not that Dr Fox) let it be known that although he doesn’t like it, he was prepared to sell servicemen short. Again. The police warned that without constant pay rises and overtime payments, crime would rocket. Then proved themselves inadequate to their core task of keeping the Queens peace, thrice.

After a drawn out campaign, the much-vaunted David Miliband was done low by his supporters, notably Lord Mandy, who then wrote a rubbish book, and still has no inkling as to just how much everyone in the nation hates him. Tony Blair wrote nonsense, and we learned about both his sex life and his toilet regime. Lucky us. Mr G W Bush turned out the best book of all three, at least in terms of fiction and plot.

Ed M became our leader, and has scored a few telling points against Bullers Dave, yet the hardcore Blairites, after three years of disloyalty, have still to learn that unity cuts both ways. A few right wing placemen showed their true inclination was to power rather than principle.

Phil Woolas was finally ousted from both Parliament and from The Labour Party, after running a nasty smear campaign that really did us no good.

Charlie Kennedy proved top be correct when it came to the coalition, fat lot of good it will do him.

And the government Front Bench looked for all the world like the Thirteenth Earl of Whybourne from The Fast Show…”Me? With my hands on the public purse? With MY REPUTATION?”

The BBCs Nick Robinson, at last able to see his pals in power, looked on the verge of a massive orgasm every time
he reported for the News. Is he sponsored by Kleenex we wonder?

The Big Society turned out to be a big “fuck you” from Millionaires to the rest of us.

Pavement reformed and toured the USA and Britain, and The Pogues started a long fairwell tour – though Spider stacey hinted at this only being a break – please let it be so…

“Duchess of Cornwall poked with a stick”

Surely the most bizarre story that I have ever seen…

And whilst not in any way condoning a physical attack on the Royals, I just couldn’t suppress a giggle – thought every paper had become Private Eye for a moment. Or edited by Chris Morris.

Behind the headlines, the aftermath of last weeks’ disorder raised much more interesting long-term issues however:

The NUS leadership has been all but sidelined by the London Assembly of Students. For decades now, NUS politics has been dominated by young ambitious hacks carving out a career for themselves – in some ways it is the Oxford Union for the less posh. Students however have changed – with a massive increase in their numbers, traditional political methods seem remote .

Those protesting are from an age group least likely to vote. and since 2009, a group outnumbered by those reaching pensionable age by 2 to 1.

In the first six months of this administration, this group have seen their pensionable age  rise, unemployment increase and fees to Education treble.

The protests were organised in a very loose way, using new social media – interesting to note that our press support this in Iran, but over here are starting to call for online censorship to rival China. Aaron Porter needs to get with the programme.

The Police are using tactics honed over the last 15 years on Anti Globalisation/Climate Change protesters. Reminds me of how they Policed the Miners Strike, using methods copied from Northern Ireland.

Compare these to the methods used against, say, The Countryside Alliance, or the big Anti War Demos, where huge numbers and people from all ages/classes came out to play.

The only effective leadership on the ground was leading The Met. NUS stewards had no authority to stop large groups of protesters doing what they liked.

The unofficial Student Leaders, unlike previous Student Protests, posed no alternative to the Fees rise and cuts, simply a big “NO!”.

This is a heady mix, and no doubt the Trots and Anarchists (a very loose term) will be competing to provide leadership as I write, but much more importantly, the NUS and Labour need to pose a viable, reasonable alternative. Fair enough, Ed is wary of being caught with a policy he cannot deliver come 2015, but Labour Students at least need to have a plan and a policy that can attract all those so pissed off that duking it out with the coppers seems a good idea.

At the Further and Higher Levels, our Education system is a mess – reforms during John Majors government have left us with no real Polytechnical ( or indeed vocational) system for the over 18s.  The youngest Universities are often no more than self-serving factories, churning out meaningless qualifications of doubtful value, and serve the students very ill indeed.

The fees rise was an arbitrary measure, and need not have happened. Alternative methods of funding, such as more targeted higher tax bands (up to, say 50% for the very highest earners) would be more equitable, as would closing the loopholes that allow Sir Philip Green and his ilk to trouser huge amounts of cash for no tax.

University and College accounts should be publicly published and open to all – the pay that some Chancellors and Chief Execs receive would shame  Croesus. the Russell Group is in this respect an adjunct to the IOD.

Altogether, there is much more to these protests than meets the eye…

Panic on the streets of London…

Dundee, Dublin, Humberside to follow?

Not since The Poll Tax riots has central London seen such violent disorder – so the media tell us…

But what really happened yesterday? Were those scuffles, baton and horse charges, smashed windows etc all caused by the lunatic fringe of the British left? Were the Police entirely proportionate in their use of force and the charming tactic of kettling? Why were people so angry?

Other questions are being raised, notably about David Camerons’ performance at PMQs, and on the splits in Little Nicks’  little party between the Social Democrats and the Orange(book)men.

The Daily Mail is predictably in full flight, Sky News and the rest of the Murdoch empire following suit. the Cenotaph defaced by urine, a statue of Winston Churchill (not his grave) “desecrated” says BBC London – all in all, not a good day to defend our democratic right to protest, but  I think we need to look at the reasons behind both the clashes in particular and the protests in general.


Firstly, let me just say that as someone who has worked in the West End for a decade, and getting the night bus from Trafalgar Square, on almost any given night Whitehall is covered in streams of urine, more so in December, as the party season takes hold.

The Police tactic of holding fairly large groups in one place for a long period & only letting a few out does mean that on a practical level, protesters have nowhere to go to pee. It will also lead to greater frustration within a group of protesters – fuelled with the righteousness of their cause, and faced with a hostile Police force, tensions will inevitably boil over. People were surrounded in one area with no chance to leave for many hours. From what I can gather from the media, protesters were refused medical aid, and repeatedly baton and horse charged throughout the afternoon.

Faced with nowhere to go, with tension and anger still at a high point, chaos reigned in small groups, with a few people attempting to rip up the flags on the Cenotaph. Note that I find this indefensible, and had nothing to do with the issue at hand. I think that a few extremists were able to egg on a larger (though still small) number of protesters. Faced with an impenetrable barrier of riot Police, those few took out their anger on buildings – The Treasury being a close at hand target, and one that may have caused a few smiles amongst some current and ex-ministers.

As to dear old Winnie, well it looks like no damage done, and I wonder why there has been no outrage at the vandalism in Stepney that has led to Clement Attlees statue being moved – a double standard????


Of course the usual suspects were there in abundance; Socialist Worker, the myriad of grouplets that survive in London, Anarchists, and perhaps a few less politically motivated. of course these groups were set on confrontation with the Police, who they see as the enemy in all situations. however, these protests have been notable for the level of organisation that has come through non-traditional methods – social media playing a large part, and many of the organisers have had little or no experience of protest before. Over the course of the past four weeks, a new generation of students have been introduced not only to protests, but to Policing methods that have been used against anti Globalisation activists, Trades unionists, and many others. It changed attitudes on both sides radically.The Leadership of the NUS has been bypassed by many on each march, and sadly, The Labour Party has been absent at a National level, yes we voted against the Bill, but Ed refused to be drawn on reversing it.

Also bear in mind the argument that over 1 million peacefully marched against the Iraq war, and were ignored. (I was on that one, although I changed my mind.) This doesn’t make rioting right, but for some it would be a justification. Our politics is still broken and seen as disconnected from the majority of our people.

The Metropolitan Police leadership have been quick to put their spin on events, but i think we can all remember the briefings that claimed Jean Charles de Menenzes was a terrorist, that the Policeman who killed Mr Tomlinson is still  suspended on full pay, and not facing jail time. We residents of London also see the Police day after day signally not getting involved in basic issues of public order – to many in the force it is not “real” Policing anymore. Now a large demo on the other and, well thats “action”.

After the past few weeks, where the Police have been caught off guard ( how would the Tory HQ in an iconic building NOT be a target???), it seems that a fair few officers may have been looking forward to a showdown, which is what they got.


As the demonstrators were let out in dribs and drabs, some made their way along Oxford Street, many dispersing to go home. Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall, riding in a stately Rolls Royce became a target for a tiny number of by now very angry young people. From film witnessed, one young man shouted “Off with their heads” – NOT the “baying crowd” depicted in The Daily Mail. The car was attacked by this small group, and once again the Metropolitan Police had to run to keep up with one of its basic functions – keeping The Queens Peace.

The couple were unharmed, and Camilla managed a light quip on the way home. They had become, for a small group, a symbol of this Governments policy of making the poor pay for the recession.

Nick Robinson seemed almost jubilant as his former Uni chums pulled off a slim majority for this Bill – could the BBC have a word about impartiality? Others seem to manage it, why not him?

No doubt Boris will say something hyperbolic in the hours to come, that rather seems to be his job – light relief and cuts.

Ham – Face Cameron will put on his “serious” face, and promise to root out the troublemakers – may I suggest he look no further than his Bullingdon Club chums, who like nothing better than breaking restaurant windows and harassing low-paid staff.

Poor Little Nicky will look anguished, pained even. He will use that quiet voice to once again state that his utter capitulation of the one principled policy that most people in Britain agreed with him on has really been the right choice. The “New politics” will use the unelected House of Lords to nod this shabby Bill through. Poor old Vince, his face looking even more sad…

Is it any wonder people got angry? Who is to blame? My money would not be those living in bedsits…

Lies, damned lies, and LBC. (What REALLY happened today in Parliament Square?)

A day off, and I go for a haircut – ho hum, another dull day. In the barbers the radio is tuned to that bastion of fair-minded journalism, LBC which is really a kind of Daily Mail on the radio…

As we all know, today is the day that the Coalition pushes tuition fees to intolerable levels, and that the National Union of Students has organised a mass rally and protest in the centre of London.

What I was hearing made me increasingly agitated – not good when someone has a razor to the back of your neck.

Now I really do not expect much from LBC and its various phone in shows, but what I heard made my blood boil – a highly organised group of men and women were occupying the centre of our Capital, well armed and protected. The Metropolitan Police Force (sorry, Service).

Caller after caller, jock after jock repeated more or less the same stuff – rabble, we need water cannons, education is a privilege, not a right, we can’t afford it etc.etc ad infinitum…

The only two voices of sanity were Will Straw from Left Foot Forward, and the Chief of Police – who had to explain why water cannon were not really a good idea (since The Met  can already kill newspaper sellers and Brazilians without them, and with relative impunity), and would lead to an arms race with protesters.

An LBC journalist at the scene reported from behind Police lines, describing one policeman injured, and claiming various missiles had been thrown; fireworks, stones, paper, snooker balls, all unsubstantiated by the radio listener ( I don’t deny their existence, I just want evidence).

Then an amazing thing, he told his audience that protesters had come armed, and mentioned a Meat Cleaver. Hurriedly we were then told that the reporter had not seen the cleaver, but had overheard a police officer, who also not witnessed the weapon warning his colleagues of this mythical weapon. This was simply repeating rumour, and any reporter worth their salt would have either wanted confirmation, or said nothing. Not good old LBC, say what you like, they know how to scare their listeners.

Now I think we can all agree that the vast majority of Students and others protesting were non-violent in expressing their anger, and have an important case to be angry about. The Lib Dems made such a fuss of their proposal to scrap fees during the election campaign that it was obvious  how much they wanted the Student vote. One could reasonably assume that whoever they went into Coalition with, this one policy would be the one thing they would not sell out. Not only did they sell out, but they have been loudly trumpeting the virtues of £9,000 per year tuition fees, as if this would never put anyone off entering Higher Education.

As Will Straw has said elsewhere, these particular cuts are avoidable and egregious. What is more, they do long term damage to our economy, as David Davis has stated (hardly a cabal of Trots and Anarchists there).

With a reasonable case, well argued and with support from not only Labour members, but also some of the more honourable Lib Dems, and even a few Tories, one would think that Nick and Daves “New Politics” would be flexible enough to look again. Not a bit of it, Govey and the Boys from the Bullingdon, in cahoots with Little Nicky, his pet Scot, and that bloke from the Werthers Origionals adds set their faces as hard as stone against compromise. Maybe they were all negotiated – out after those few days in May.

No wonder Students, Teachers, Parents and Grandparents are just a little miffed. Its a fair bet to say even a few of the boys and girls in blue were at least anxious as to how they would finance their kid through Uni.

So as the new stories unfold over the next few days, may I inject a little common sense?

1. Yes, the usual suspects will have been at the demo – The SWP, Anarchists, etc. Looking for a confrontation with the Police.

2.No, the majority were not led or members of the above.

3.The heaviest armed and disciplined and indeed protected group in London today have been wearing blue, and should have been displaying their numbers on their shoulders.

4.People on both sides will have been injured. Those injured by the Police have very little chance of redress.

5. Press and other media reports will very probably be one-sided and innaccurate, often scapegoating the wrong individuals.

I have just heard that the Tuition fees have been raised – they measure just scraped through. Shame on the Liberal Democrat Party. Shame on The Conservative and Unionist Party.

A Cabinet of the wealthy have just made the rest of us pay yet again for a crisis created by their City backers. They have put short term solutions before our nations’ long term interests. Let them never talk of patriotism without a resounding chorus of our laughter in the future.

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