What would Clement do?

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

Archive for the tag “Clement Attlee”

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…

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.

Mr

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…

Poll position and other puns…

The latest opinion polls by ComRes and YouGov for The independent and Sun newspapers seem to be confirming a trend.

The trend is for voters who previously backed the LibDems to switch to Labour, as a result of Coalition policies, which, of course, no voter actually voted for. In one sense, this is no surprise, as the ideological nature of many of the cuts so far has become clear, and for all the blather of “New Politics” by Pork Balls and Little Nicky, we have the most ideological government since the 1980s, thinly masked as “equality of sacrifice” and “national interest” (themes last used by the National Government in the thirties).

So, some good news for Labour, as various polls put them either a couple of points ahead, or just a couple of points behind the Conservatives, with the LibDems losing out in most cases. However, this is not enough – to win next time, after the effective Gerrymandering of boundaries we will see next year, we need to take a commanding lead.

So far Ed M and Alan Johnson have done well, and have reversed the bad results of the recent past, presenting a cautious, sensible front against both cuts and Coalition jibes. It is fair to say that whoever won the May election would have been in a little trouble by now anyway, so we need to hammer home the arguments that Gideon and his chums are not competent or willing to take on the Banks, that they are divorced from the lives of the vast majority of our fellow Britons, and that The Coalition is simply not correct in its solutions to the crisis.

This is hard work, and will take time. Here in London, we are not helped by the Bethnal Green affair, nor by the choice of Ken Livingstone once again as Mayoral Candidate, but these are by no means insurmountable problems.

Ed is the right leader, with the right approach. One of the remarkable features of New Labour was its ability to turn history on its head. The 1945 victory was possible for a whole range of factors, but not least was Attlees’ leadership – and public persona. Quite simply, his dry, dull exterior made many radical changes seem incredibly normal and well, dull. Tony Blair made a slight tweak in the status quo seem exciting and new. Guess which one I prefer…

Ed has to carry on being the calm quiet one at the Dispatch Box, as this very effectively puts Cameron into a spin, creating the image an air of panic within Downing Street.

We have a tough time ahead, as people will not forget or forgive the failures of the recent past (nor should they), but if we can truly pose alternatives to both the cuts and Government by Millionaire, then we can win, not just in 2015, but before then in the local elections next May.

My Girlfriend is… a Tory…

Yup, I have to come clean comrades, the wonderful, beautiful, intelligent woman that I share my life with is a one nation Tory, and not a very political one at that.Who went to Public School. And Cambridge. And her mother lives in Surrey.

What she sees in an undereducated state school oik like me is an utter mystery, but I am honoured and proud that she chose me to spend time with.

Despite various filthy suggestions from my (better educated) mates over the last ten months, I have yet to “give her one for the Miners”, or to try to convert this caring, feisty soul. Our backgrounds are very different, yet we both see the good in each other, and her patience is a tribute to her upbringing. Especially when I try to get her to listen to Billy Bragg, or watch Ken Loach films. We are of the same generation, yet we have so little shared experience of the defining period we grew up in – the Eighties. She never cried as the Miners were defeated and marched back, broken but unbowed. No CND badges for her, no shudder of fear in 1987 as a father quietly explained just how scared he was at what Thatcher would do to our nation. No demoralising anguish as John Major won in 1992 .

And yet, I am constantly reminded of just how much we share. How much this country really means to both of us, its countryside, its traditions, its people. I am constantly reminded of just how little of that very British vice, snobbery she has. That beneath all of the political differences, at the root, we both love Britain, and want to see a fairer world, we just differ as to how this can be achieved.

The delightful Lady P has stood by me during these past three months of unemployment, and has demonstrated faith and love when surely wiser counsels would tell he to cut her losses and go.

So heres to you  Lady P, blogging widow and independent woman, lets hope we make it through this, and are you really sure I can’t tempt you to the Red corner? xxx

The Strategic Defence Review…

“Leaving aside the admitted expense of it, I can say that the Nation cannot choose between having an Army and not…”

– or something like that, the Duke of Wellington, circa 1842.

Hard times beckon at the MoD, where there will be even less tough,tough toys for tough, tough boys.

The Strategic Defence Review, part of the regular business of Government, kicks off amidst an atmosphere of panic and demoralisation in the higher echelons of both the MoD and amongst service chiefs. After years of overstretch caused by too many operational commitments abroad, and a continuing procurement policy that fleeces the state whilst delivering few bangs per buck compared to other western countries.

PROBLEMS,PROBLEMS…

And here is the problem, in an uncertain world, with new power blocks emerging, it is vital that our interests are safeguarded, and that international law is respected. We need forces that are well trained, well equipped and well led – not only for ourselves, but for the defence of Western Values in general. Those men and women need to believe that they will be looked after for putting their lives on the line. Already, front line helicopter numbers are set to be cut – at a time when such mobility is vital in Afghanistan.

In an increasingly unequal world, a GI-Bill style settlement for outgoing soldiers, airmen and sailors would be a vital step forwards. PFI has been a disgrace in MoD provision, and must be ended. We need to take a long hard look at priorities – we cannot uninvent the Nuclear bomb, but do we need Trident? Is it flexible enough? Can we defend these islands from threats? Or the Falklands? Are we kitted out for future threats most probable to occur?

NO, NOT THAT DR FOX…

Sadly Dr Fox(no, not that one), who may or may not still be at his desk today, is unlikely to look at cutting the long-term gordian knot of defence procurement. This review is most likely to leave all our conventional forces undermanned and under equipped for current operation, let alone any future entanglements. As the major Coalition partner is still profoundly Europhobic, we are unlikely to be furthering European Defence integration, whether via Nato or the EU – one policy that could very well reap definite dividends for not only the UK, but also France, Italy, Spain and Germany.

Once again, the Treasury will have its way, and we will be picking up the pieces for years to come. Not a solution that Major Attlee or Ernest Bevin would have welcomed…

“A period of silence from you would be most welcome.”

So said the great Major Attlee in response to Harold Laski, and I have to say, after reading Harriet Harmans’ words in the New Statesman (www.newstatesman.com) this morning, it seems like good advice  to all those who are busy hawking books around,  responding or commenting on them.

The seemingly endless reams of gossip, innuendo and self justification that have deluged the public over the last few months have served no positive purpose, and like most political autobiographies, are of limited historical value. Hysterical value is in abundance. Where is Leo Abse when you need him?

None of the major players in the New Labour drama have much to say outside of their little set, save for walk-on parts for the general public and various moguls, charlatans, villains and comic figures.

This constant re-fighting of battles lost and won brings little to the debate inside our Party, and the wider Social Democratic world, save vanity. So please, Gordon, don’t add to this pile of nonsense – write another biography instead, like the one you wrote on Jimmy Maxton, I think Manny Shinwell is due one right now…

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