What would Clement do?

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

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Clem’s Conference roundup 2010

OK POP-PICKERS! HERE IS THE FIRST ANNUAL ROUNDUP OF THE CONFERENCE SEASON! THE ONLY RELIABLE TRANSLATION OF WHAT THEY ALL REALLY MEANT…

STRAIGHT IN A T No 1, its…THE TUC…

“Wildcat” Bob Crow – ” Bruvvers! A General Strike will put me on ver telly!”

” I’m walkin’ ahht! Go on, watch me walk aaht! Everybody aaaaaht!”

Everyone Else – “There go the Tombly-boos…”

Yessiree, Wilcat Bob – as fat as Ernie Bevin, and less effective than a chocolate teapot…

“Careful” Brendan Barber – ” Have you met Mervyn King? He says its not our fault…”

Merv “The Nerve” King – ” No, its not your fault – but you will have to pay…”

Tony “Twitter” Woodley – ” Lets fight the Poll Tax! Don’t mention my pay…”

Unite Members – ” HOW f***ing much?”

Nick Robinson – ” Do I really have to be here? Some of them didn’t even go to university – bloody C2s…”

SKY Newsteam – ” And coming up…why Trades Unionists are not as other people…”

COMING UP IN SECOND PLACE.. THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS…

Charlie Kennedy – Soo0 sorry I’m late, did I miss anything?”

Nick “The Star” Clegg – ” Look at my new friends! Look at my new job! Aren’t you proud?”

Lib Dems – ” Hmm, not so sure…”

Vince “nicely nicely” Cable – “Bankers are  bad! They have been naughty! They must pay! Am I at the right conference?”

Lib Dems – ” Yes! But its the wrong Government!”

Simon Hughes, Paddy Ashdown et al – ” All things bright and beautiful…”

Nick Robinson – ” Now this is more like it, new some of these chaps at Oxford.”

SKY News team – ” A masterly performance by the young, vigorous Leader of The Conservative Party…”

HOT ON THEIR HEELS, RISING TO NUMBER THREE AND STILL CLIMBING(?)…ITS THE LABOUR PARTY!

Screaming Lord Mandelson – ” Curses! I’ll get you, you meddling humans…”

Labour Members – “You off then? Bye bye…”

David Aaronovitch – “You fools! You elected a member of (gasp!) the LABOUR PARTY!!!”

“Lightinin’ Draw” Ed Miliband – “We made a few mistakes, and lost the election, lets try to sort it out…”

The Labour Party – ” Hooray! At last! Some honesty!’

“Diddy” David M – “No! We never! I’m off…”

Ed “Gis a job” Balls – “Shadow Chancellorship looks vacant…”

Yvette Cooper – ” I feel a row coming on…”

“Sweet” Caroline Flint – ” Is there anyone here that could possibly compete with my beauty? Nope…”

Stilletoed Socialist – ” Oi! Granny! Leave it out. I’m here now…”

Nick Robinson – ” If I just keep talking, I may very well say the right thing – or not…”

SKY News team – ” Ed Miliband looks weird, and, just like Neil Kinnock, he eats babies. At The Gay Hussar. With Tony Woodley…”

ZOOMING IN AT NUMBER FOUR… THE ONES TO BEAT…HEY HEY ITS THE TORIES…

Dr Fox (No, not that one) – “War! Yah! What is it good for?  Share prices.”

Tories – “Absolutely!”

Michael “Woodentop” Gove – “Ooh! Sorry, did I misspeak?”

Tories – ” Go on Govey, you know you want to Govey, you said you would Govey, they all want it Govey, go on Govey…”

David “Ham-face” Cameron – ” Victory! At last I have more power than Boris…”

Boris Johnson – ” Let me introduce you to the town bike…”

Lord Ashcroft – ” Now, if I stay very very quiet…”

Andy “Not me Guv” Coulson – ” Now if I stay very very quiet…”

Nick Robinson – ” Phew! Finally my sort of people…”

SKY News team – ” a masterful performance by the young, virile Leader of The Liberal Democrats”

More Tory- based nonsense to come.. remember! These are only predictions, based on previous results.The Economy may go up and down, and Kenneth Clarke may huff and puff…

With heartfelt thanks to “The Now Show’ on R4 for Govey and Dr Fox gags…

Iraq, Ed, David and the rest of us…

IRAQ – RIGHTS AND WRONGS

For all that he said in his first leaders speech, few can doubt that the most important moment for many on the centre-left was Ed Miliband’s apology on Iraq. In very careful language, reminiscent of Robin Cook, he made the legal and diplomatic case for the thinking opposition. Big applause, or not, depending on your point of view. This was the moment that Labour finally started to reach out to many of those inside and outside the movement who deserted us in droves after 2001, finding a home for their votes in The Greens, or in the Liberal Democrats.

It was a move, however, fraught with difficulty, encapsulated not only by the recorded reactions of elder brother David, but followed up by pieces on the national press from pro and anti-war voices, such as todays article in The Times by David Aaronovitch.

A someone who started out as instinctively against the Iraq adventure, yet came to believe that although very flawed, it was the right thing to do (albeit awfully executed), I think I can add something here. Since 2001, the spectrum of centre-left opinion has been divided rancourously and dangerously over Iraq. The two sides have expended much bile and energy on each other, rather than on supporting arab Democrats and Trades Unionists across the middle east. The terms of debate have become increasingly extreme, the result being that many opportunities to challenge the real “neocons”,  “imperialists”, and “excusers of tyranny” have been ignored. Rational debate on Israel, Islamicism and attitudes to Human Rights has all but vanished.

There were honourable people on both sides of this clash, some, like Johan Hari and Nick Cohen, have changed sides over time, others, like David and Ed Miliband have not, but no matter, the point is that amongst ourselves we need recognise what this has meant to the hopes of the Left. My position would best be summed up by paraphrasing Nick Cohen in his book “Whats Left?” –

“OK, I didn’t initially support the War for a number of reasons – knee-jerk anti-americanism, a feeling of being rushed, the dodgy dossier and lack of a clear UN sanction, as well as suspicions as to the motives of GW Bush and his oil-rich friends. I marched, I shouted, and still we went to War, which in military terms was won quickly and with ease.

However, I could still see that deposing Ba’ath tyranny was a good thing for the people of Iraq, and that there was a chance to build a democratic, federal Iraq. The occupation, hamstrung by Washington’s obsession with doing things on the cheap and via private companies, has been a disaster, making mistakes detailed in books such as “State of Denial”. Nation building is still an honourable ideal, if done on an open, honest basis.

The trouble is that most of the hardcore anti-War campaigners have moved from opposing “Imperialism” to supporting an insurgency that is comprised of old Ba’athists, Clerical Fascists, and is in large part backed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. It repeatedly targets intellectuals, women, and the most progressive parts of Iraqi society. Whatever the obscene death toll in Iraq post-war, the largest number of those killed by violent means have been killed by these people. Faced with a choice between some freedom and none, I have to choose some freedom under occupation.”

Thanks Nick, anyway, there is a real danger today that attitudes towards Iraq will become the touchstone for a division within our party, between those who wanted David, and those who didn’t. This would be the worst outcome for all concerned. It would also be against the stated wishes of a certain D. Miliband MP…

AN INSURGENCY OF OUR OWN?

From the moment a couple of weeks ago that Ed emerged as a real contender for the Leadership, those closely linked to the New Labour “Project”  swung into action. Tony Blair very wisely mentioned no candidate by name, followed by Lord Mandelson, John Rentoul, Alistair Campbell and David Aaronovitch were much more specific, as were the Murdoch Press. Attacks on Ed as being “Red”, a geek, too young, too leftwing, too odd etc became increasingly heavy. This is all part and parcel of debate in an election, and is fair enough, however, from Sunday onwards, “New Labour” voices in the Media intensified their attacks.

In a breathtaking reversal of Labour history, it was now the rightwing, having lost a Leadership election, that seems to want us to commit political Hara-Kiri, just so its favoured son can pick up the pieces after 2015. It is very tempting to describe these voices as latter-day Bennites of the Right, if so many of them hadn’t been Bennites back in the early 1980s that is. A more accurate description of this situation would be the distrust between the pacifists and non-pacifists in the Labour movement post 1918. It is often glossed over, but throughout the inter-war left, divisions arose over attitudes to The Great War, and not everyone was able to re-unite immediately post November 11th. Clem Attlee is an outstanding example of someone willing to work with both sides, while himself being a wounded Gallipoli veteran. It took (pacifist) McDonalds treachery, and Bevins harsh 1935 speech attacking George Lansbury before the wounds were healed in general terms. In the meantime, other internal battles – with the ILP, The Socialist League and perpetually with Morrison expended valuable time and effort better spent combatting unemployment, The National Government and the BUF. (Shades of today?)

Another parallel would be the destructive and futile decade long battle between the Gaitskellites and Bevanites for the soul of labour in the 1950s. Remember, we lost in 1951, although polling one million more votes than the Tories, and the fratricidal warfare that Attlee tried so hard to prevent led to us losing those votes and every election until 1964 – thirteen wasted years indeed.

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY…

It seems that, having still not got used to losing grip on the levers of power, a tightly knit group of politically motivated individuals are hell-bent on sabotaging our chance to effectively renew, oppose, and defeat this Coalition.

It does not have to be like this – I doubt very much if electing Ed has ushered in a period when we embrace the 1983 manifesto like a long-cherished Bible. The vast majority of our new members (myself included) are eager to return to Government, with a new purpose, although we may be a little to the left of the “true” Blairite tendency. We want the power to save the NHS, create a fairer, more equal Britain, stop the atomisation of our education system along class lines, rebalance the economy and effectively regulate the city. We want to see fair voting system, and elect The House Of Lords amongst many other things.

Surely, we can have a rational debate about policy and outcomes, rather than harmful sniping that could become outright war if we don’t all grow up now. We owe it to our Party, to ourselves, and to our Nation.

Ed’s first speech…

OK – having just listened carefully to Eds first keynote speech, I suppose I must give y’all my first impressions…

As as performance, Ed built up a creditable head of steam, and obviously learnt early on that oratory is not necessarily shouting. As a relatively unknown new Leader, he also had to flesh out his backstory for the general public. On the whole, it was a carefully pitched effort, a speech to both unify the party and to reach out to those millions of voters we lost under Blair and Brown after 2001.

A number of points were raised, and although it was of course short on policy, it was heavy on aspiration – both for Labour, and for the country as a whole.

ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, BROTHER…

Starting with the back story of his family was a good move for someone that few outside of politics know much about – his parents flight from the Nazis, their (very) left wing credentials, and general human interest were all covered. Although much the same age as Cameron and Clegg, his background is radically different from either – no landed yeomanry in his past, thats for certain.

On the Unions, he steered a course succinctly between stressing the right and necessity of Unions defending ordinary people and the Bob Crow faction within the TUC, thus undermining Tory jibes (tired as they are) about “Union paymasters”.

The really interesting parts were to come…

OUT WITH THE “NEW”, IN WITH THE…?

Whilst staying reasonable in tone, and paying tribute to the positive legacy of our last thirteen years in government, he drew a line under New Labour.

On Civil Liberties, Equal Rights and Iraq, Ed was a breath of fresh air. Whether we agreed with the ousting of Saddam, or or had problems with dodgy dossiers, it was clear that this was a new page  – couched in the realism that between 2001 and 2010 we lost 5 million voters. olive branches were offered to those of a liberal persuasion, whether LDs or not.

Throughout his speech, Blair and Brown were bracketed together as “Tony & Gordon” – significantly placing blairites and brownites together, whilst also stressing the need to move on.

In fact, in the light of Nick Clegg’s vitriol aimed at Labour in Liverpool, Ed aimed all his attacks at the Tories, and David Cameron. We have a Leader who has grasped that we may need to form a coalition of our own, or maybe Ed is too well brought up to kick a man when he is down, either way, what was to follow was great news…

A NEW HOPE…

The Leader of The Labour Party, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, came out in full backing of a Yes vote in the AV referendum! He was unambiguous in his personal support for AV, and if we act quickly enough, we may be able to swing significant numbers of Labour supporters and activists behind the campaign. His support for an elected House of Lords was also not couched in the previous lukewarm terms of New Labour, but put centre stage, and both were well received within the hall. This is a major shift in both policy and attitude within Labour, and should not be underestimated.

The next steps were equally as important – Ed’s “Tamworth Manifesto” moment – he introduced the concept of constructive opposition, last used to great effect by the late John Smith. On the economy, he stressed a sensible level of deficit reduction, and wisely, given that we have yet to see detailed government plans, called for support for sensible economies, rather than blanket opposition. We have yet to know what Ed deems a “sensible” cut, or even to know exactly where the axe will fall, but this is a classic and useful position, given that we were advocating economies of our own in our last manifesto.

The call to social unity across the rich-poor divide – that we are happiest in societies that are less unequal, was a great foil for Cameron’s “Big Society”, and has already led to Sir Philip Blond to confusedly mark Ed out as a “red Tory” – it may be that Sir Philip is really a blue Social Democrat…

IN SUMMATION, CONFERENCE…

This speech was a good start, and showed that we have the ability to move on in a way that took the Conservatives ten years to do.

Action is needed, but the central theme that we need to move on from New Labour is perhaps a tacit acceptance that more than one viewpoint needs to be heard in policy discussions and development. Support for AV needs to be converted into action – Take Back Parliament needs Labour input. The studied lack of hostility towards the Liberal Democrats was both refreshing and may be useful for years to come.

This early in a period of opposition, what we need is less detailed policy, more a re-statement of principles. This speech was a good start. Lets move towards making the Good Society a reality.

Ed wins – what next?

So, after all the debating and argument, by the narrowest of margins, Ed Miliband is our new Leader. We have as a party shown that electoral defeat no longer produces a knee-jerk move to the Left, whatever the media say.

I voted for Ed as my second preference, after voting for Diane, my vote for her being a way of drawing a line in the sand after the New Labour period, and to try to foster wider debate within the party. We are now in a position that needs careful handling if we want to win in 2015, as a number of factors come into play:

Firstly, Ed has already stated that our opposition stance will have to be a lot more constructive than it has been so far. This is to the good, as we were clear before May that cuts would have to be made, and it makes no sense to the general public if we spend our time denying the deficit exists. where we disagree with the coalition is on how deep and how fast, and on what should be cut. We all know that we need to have a credible alternative to the worn-out monetarist guff coming from Osborne and Co.

On regulation, it may well be that Vince cable will be able to propose far-reaching changes that will help re-balance the economy in the future. We need to support him where we can, while developing his arguments further. On the Reform Bill, we have a greater problem, and also much more to gain – the blatant gerrymandering that has been included in the Bill is the one serious bloc to Labour support (see Nick Cohen in the Observer yesterday). However, a fairer voting system is manifestly just. In one sense, the passing of this Bill by the coalition would solve one problem, whether or not we support it. The problem of the AV referendum, which is going to b a tough fight, is that if we do not support it, we are open to charges of double standards. Therefore our opposition needs to stress the undemocratic nature of the seat culling and boundary changes, whilst showing support for the Yes campaign.

Charges from the right that Ed is just a Trades Union puppet, such as those made by the (unelected) Baroness Warsi, are not new, but need to be handled carefully. The usual Tory anti-Union line is followed up by the £80 billion cuts to the public sector, which face huge  Union opposition. We must be sure that every cut we oppose can be met with an alternative. And we must strenuously propose our alternatives, if we wish to effectively back any fightback, and give it a chance of success.

Within our own ranks we have to be honest as to why we were so rejected last May. This means asking tough questions, and taking tough measures. Phil Woolas and his agent should be immediately suspended from the Party until an internal inquiry has judged whether or not they have brought the party into disrepute. Likewise certain councillors in East London, Doncaster, and in certain areas of Scotland. We need to clean out the stables, and to win back the trust that we have lost, not just in government, but also in local government too. Ex ministers who have dodgy links to shady businessmen cannot be allowed onto the opposition frontbench. this will be hard, and I doubt that the PLP will like it much, but this needs to be done.

We have an opportunity to recreate our party as the sole national party of opposition, we could be instrumental in helping to redraw the political map of Britain, and we could be back in power in 2015, but only if we are honest, bold, and determined. This week at conference, Ed and the rest of the candidates have the chance to show how far we have already come since May, comrades, don’t blow it.

Labour and the Unions – branches of the same tree?

As we get ready for Conference and to finally find out who our new Leader is, one thing is sure to crop up in the media.

Like the silly season in August, the ritual attack by the media on Labours “links to the trades unions” has become an established part of our national calendar, almost like The Queens Speech (although only one of these is taking place this year…).

It is high time that we moved beyond our ritual flinching on this issue, and restated the fact about this organic link with organised Labour:

  1. The Labour Party was founded by the coming together of Trades Unions, Co-Operatives, and Socialist Societies and smaller Parties.
  2. Unlike business donations, Trades Union contributions are strictly controlled at source (the individual member) by law.
  3. Businesses do not even have to identify which Parties the contribute to at shareholders meetings, although parties themselves have to make donations of a certain size public.
  4. Political funds of Trades Unions are part of their open accounts.
  5. Lord Ashcroft effectively bought The Conservative Party as a going concern, even though he is a non-dom.

Now there are issues as to internal Democracy within some Trades Unions, and signed off accounts must be clearer and open to all members at all times, but compared to the backing that some other parties receive from shady sources, our trades union sponsors often come out as paragons of virtue. After all, when did your boss last tell you “Thank you for all your hard work this year, you don’t get a pay rise,but instead we are giving £100,000 to The Conservative Party, £20,000 to the Liberal democrats, and retaining an MP from each party as a non-exec Director at £5,000 per year.” ?

Unlike money from, say, the Hinduja brothers, or Formula One, Union money is not only more transparent, but if it comes with strings, they are at least open and honest strings.

LABOUR, UNIONS AND RESISTANCE

The next issue is much more vital. As this coalition’s cuts bite, Trades Unionists will be at the forefront of resistance to the promised butchery of services. It is vital that Labour help to move public opinion both locally and nationally against these measures. This is not simply a matter of MPs on Picket Lines – we have to quickly develop a credible economic alternative to cuts that the public can easily understand. we have to stand up for those who are trying to defend communities, and we have to involve Trades unionists in political battles, such as the Yes campaign on AV. this has to be done at grassroots level to have any chance of being effective.

We must strongly defend the organic link between Unions and Labour, and recognise that , unlike Dave & Co,we really are all in this together…

AV, Labour and Reform…

STOP PRESS!!

There is a Take Back Parliament Rally with Billy Bragg in Manchester on 28th September, to coincide with the Labour Party Conference. Details at Purple People website. I urge you all to go…

Along with cutting essential services, this coalition is also determined to cut your representation in Parliament – the Reform Bill will mean not only a chance for a fairer voting system, but also the loss of 50 seats in the Commons, and a redrawing of boundaries that will take no notice of local considerations whatsoever.

This is not just a matter for the usual suspects, as The Reform Bill will pass largely unamended, unless we get AV, the Tory Gerrymandering of seats will make it even more difficult for us to win. It is in our own self interest, as well as the interests of democracy, for the Yes campaign to win the referendum. Lets all get involved.

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