What would Clement do?

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

Archive for the tag “Justice”


…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…

Is This Justice???

Over the past two weeks, David Cameron has been feeling rather unwell, or “sick to my stomach” as he puts it. The source of his affliction has apparently been identified as a Court in Strasbourg, where it has been proposed that prisoners should be given the vote, and that those on the Sex Offenders Register might have the right to appeal.

Leaving aside voting rights for prisoners, which I am not at all sure about myself, the right to appeal needs looking into. At the moment anyone who commits any sexual offence is placed on the Register for life, regardless of circumstances.

The recent case in the South West is one example, and given what we know, it seems a reasonable outcome.

However, the following fictitious case would cause the same result:

A young woman of 18 years has sex at a party with a fifteen year old boy. The boys parents find out, and outraged, take the matter to the Police. Under due process of Law, the young woman is found guilty and serves a sentence. Upon leaving custody, she is now marked for life as a Sex Offender.

Now the right of appeal is not an automatic method of wiping names of the guilty off a list, but it would be compassionate, just, and ultimately wise if it was there to protect those who are unfairly bracketed with serial child abusers and child pornographers.

Not to Mr Cameron, nor his equally “sick” allies.

An Open Letter To Honest Opponents.

In the past few months I have met many Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters in the blogosphere, and in the main, I have found them to be courteous and respectful of other opinons. Obviously I avoid blowhards like the plague, and with Lady P at my side I know better than to simply be rude for the hell of it (however much fun it would be).

I have also noticed that supporters and members of both parties are disgruntled to say the least with certain aspects of the Coalitions policies. In politics, it never does to attribute uniform beliefs to your enemies. In this spirit I ask my Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Yes To Fairer Votes Campaign, and Conservatives of a truly One Nation frame of mind to read on and ponder…

Is it honestly true to your principles to restrict the British people’s access to their land? To sell off ancient forests held in common, for the benefit of all?

Is it wise to fillet our Defences, as this administration is doing?

Is it just to erode the living standards of agricultural workers by abolishing their independent wages council?

Is it wise to allow one multinational company unheard of control over the media?

What patriotic Government allows such levels of tax evasion by the wealthy and large British corporations?

Is it good Conservatism, or Liberalism to erode our access to, and connection with Parliament, by destroying long cherished geographical boundaries and regional loyalties?

Is it fair play to instigate campaigning by smear and inference, as in the London Mayoral campaign?

Do you really believe that the upheaval this Government is instigating is in the true benefit of the NHS?

Does it really make sense to further atomise our national Education system, potentially excluding the talented poor for a generation?

Is it not simply politically motivated spite to add further needless anti-Trades Union legislation to the toughest Trades Union laws in Europe? Is this not something Disraeli would have baulked at?

How wise and patriotic can it be to seriously harm Britain’s universally respected voice to the World – The BBC World Service? Is it responsible? Is it truly what you want?

Are you entirely comfortable with a Government that is enacting legislation that was in neither of your parties’ manifestos, nor written into The Coalition Agreement?

I realise that we will not agree on everything, that is the nature of politics. But I also see that many of you oppose some, if not all of the measures listed above. I hope that we can all work together to help ameliorate the flood of ill-written, ill thought out legislation we see coming out of westminster and Whitehall.

For our nations’ sake I know that we will be able to work together at times…

Never Again.

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. If you can, go to Liverpool Street station, and spend a moment looking at the Kindertransport Memorial Sculpture and think. From there, take a walk down Cable Street and think. Remember.

And marvel that within one mile of each other we have two enduring symbols of resistance to tyranny and Nazism, from two totally different ends of British Society,  ordinary men and women did as much as they could to wipe out the shameful blot of appeasement that stains our history. I salute their memory and their courage to do what was right, even if it meant breaking the law.

You should already know the history of the Holocaust, the industrial scale genocide of Jews and Roma across Nazi-dominated Europe, and the mass-murder of homosexuals, communists, trades unionists, and all political opponents of Hitlers regime. At least six million wiped out without mercy.

I ask you all to spare a thought for those I would call the victims of the Twentieth Century as a whole – those who died around the world at the hands of brutal ideologies and barbarous regimes.

Spare a thought for the Armenians who were all but snuffed out by the Ottoman Empire in The Great War. The destruction of Smyrna in the 1920s. The tens of millions who died under Soviet Rule – Ukranians, Poles, Oppositionists, Jews, Kazakhs, Chechens and ordinary Russians to name but very few.

Consider the fate of Cambodians, Rwandans, Gay men in Cuba, The “Disappeared” in South America, The Kurds, Hungarian, East German, Czech, Slovak and Polish resisters of tyranny. Be mindful of Egyptian and Iranian protesters today of all days.

Lithuanian, Estonian and Latvian patriots, Spanish Republicans, the millions of Maos Chinese victims. The heroes of Tiananmen Square. The Warsaw Uprisings of 1943 and 1944 – Marek Edelman, Pastor Neimuller, Deitrich Boenhoffer. Opponents of Saddam Hussein, victims of The Mukarabat, victims of The Islamic republic of Iran.

Think of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Darfur. Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo.

Genocide and mass murder for political reasons, and on an industrial scale, were sadly not a unique experience during the last century.

“All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Remember, and say it loud.


Unite Against Fascism – http://uaf.org.uk

Holocaust Memorial – http://www.hmd.org.uk

Coalition Seeks To Sell-Off Our Forests

In a move that Lib Dem Danny Alexander opposed in Scotland, he and his new best mates are seeking to sell-off our English Forests.

That is 50% of all the publicly accessible forests in England. They favour wholesale privatisation.

This would be the largest theft of public land since Enclosure. The Woodland Trust, National Trust, The Ramblers Association and a host of other public bodies oppose this transfer of land kept in trust for future generations into the hands of, in general, multi national logging companies.

Land that is legally accessible would quite probably be obstructed at best. At worst, we would be blocked from exercising our long fought for rights.

This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is our Land. It Is Not Caroline Spelmans Land.

Lobby your MP, Lobby the Environment Agency, this Law of Theft must be stopped.

It used to be that old fashioned Conservatives believed in the common heritage of all, especially in rural areas.

In case some of you out there have not twigged yet, Cameron and his gang hold Country dwellers, and those who enjoy our natural heritage in utter contempt. Having sold the family silver in the 1980s, they are selling the furniture now – at fire-sale prices, to big business.

Not an Acre! Not a tree!

Take up the spirit of Gerrard Winstanley – “No man hath any right to sell the earth for private gain.”

“The Arab Street” is Really Angry…

Since the start of the Tunisian Revolution, the combined Dictators, Kings and Kleptocrats of the Middle East have been feeling the wrath of what commentators refer to as “The Arab Street” – which we would recognise as the ordinary fella and his wife…

Events in Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Algeria, Lebannon and Iran have been building for a number of years, but the combination of  Tunisian revolt and the leaks from the last round of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations have made for a heady brew.

Anyone who believes in Democracy and Liberty will welcome the discomfiture (possibly defeat) of dictators and their supporters. I do see a number of issue which we as democratic Socialists should be clear about:

  1. Israel has a right to exist. Whatever the debates about Zionism, and however valid they were in the 1930s, the simple fact of Israel means that we have to oppose any move to destroy the state of Israel- it is a recipe for the potential mass murder of millions .
  2. The “Greater Israel” project, meaning the consolidation of gains made during and since The Six Day War must be stopped, and where possible, reversed. Support for Israels existence does not mean uncritical support. The repressive machine that Israel has become must be dismantled.
  3. Bottling up resistance with repression has only led to much more extreme forms of dissent. By undermining Fatah, the Israelis now have to deal with Hamas, the Algerian Dictatorship stole an election from FIS, now they will be dealing with something much more extreme, and then there is Iran…
  4. The West must play a very careful game here – we need to support moves towards Democracy without fuelling accusations that they are our patsies.
  5. The Socialist International, to which Labour belongs, must clean up its own house – the repressive thieves who rule much of  the region are often represented here. For the sake of international solidarity, they and their parties must be expelled.
  6. We must clearly support, as Democratic socialists, the right of free speech and protest against repressive regimes, wherever they are.
  7. However, we should have no illusions about some of the organisations that are seeking to lead these protests – some of them are Islamists, whereas most of the demonstrators are clearly ordinary men and women who have just about had enough…

A proposal for imaginative protests – How to upset Nick and Dave…

The idea is simple. Every bit of junk mail you get, re-address to the Headquarters of the Liberal Democrats or The Conservative Party. Fill in every application form you receive in your papers and magazines with their address details…

Better still, pick your nearest Coalition MP and redirect your spam/junk mail to his/her constituency office.

Amongst the piles of guff will be the one letter they really need…


So, the press are full of stories of “selfish” Firefighters, and their wanton proposed action on November the fifth. A few points need to be raised against the unthinking right wingers howling and spouting cant…

The London Fire Brigade management arbitrarily set a date of 26th November for new working contracts to be signed by all Firefighters, initially with no room for further consultation. Under section 188 of the 1992 Employment Act, if they do not sign, they loose their jobs, not because we don’t need them, but because they oppose the contracts.

The main bone of contention is not money, but shift patterns. With around 50% of London Firefighters living outside of London, and the reality that you can be called out right up until the very last second of your shift, this is not a small point. Think about it, do you work in a job where you are on call for 13 hours, and at 12 hours 59 minutes suddenly find yourself doing another two hours (dangerous) work with no notice? the 48 hour maximum is often more of a minimum, so all talk of “long weekends” is in reality hot air.

The use of section 188 by management is seen by most Firefighters as an attempt by LFB to bully them, and their Union, and for many is the central point, rather than even the disputed shift patterns, that up until now have been under discussion for five years, so the Union have been negotiating with management up until the bosses decided (no doubt with Boris Johnson’s backing) to provoke a confrontation.

In areas such as South Yorkshire, where 12hr/12hr shift patterns are currently working, this has been achieved by negotiation with the FBU, rather than Reagan-style confrontation, as practiced by London Fire Brigade.

Finally, an emotional point – after November 5th comes Remembrance Sunday. at the Cenotaph, and around Britain, alongside service comrades past and present we will see Firefighters march past a pay tribute to the heroism shown during the Blitz, at Coventry, Silvertown Docks, Bristol etc. We will remember those who went to rescue those caught in the 7/7 attacks, Bradford stadium fire, even the Brighton Bombing. Emergency Service cover is not a “luxury”, nor are those we ask to put their own lives in danger for us especially privileged- they are men and women who potentially sacrifice everything for us, every working day.

Perhaps those that bray loudly at the FBU are still hankering for another Miners strike – perhaps their homes are fireproof. I wonder who they will call if this turns out not to be the case? Boris with a bucket???

How the other half die…

What kills more people in the Third World today? War? TB? Famine? Torture? Sweatshop conditions?HIV/AIDS?

Nope, its the shits.

Typhus, Cholera, E.Coli and other water-bourne ailments regularly kill more people (mainly the very young and the old) than anything else. According to the United Nations,every week 42,000 die due to dirty water and a lack of sanitation, 90% of these deaths will be children under five. I think we can all agree that this is a crime, as the basics of sanitation are not only common knowledge, but relatively cheap to implement. Simple sewerage, no less than clean drinking water, is what many millions across the planet lack – obscene when you see just how much is spent every day on bottled water in the West these days.

I suppose that we really should see stars campaigning on this issue more often, but then again, its hard to imagine Bono or Katy Perry opening a sewer – not much of a photo opportunity for Gwyneth Paltrow I suppose….

We all had a good laugh at the Commonwealth Games, and the prospect of a bunch of runners getting the runs, but if you are an Indian child, the runs could well be the death of you.

I urge you all to get informed, and get in touch with WaterAid at http://wateraid.org/uk

We should be digging toilets, not graves.

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.


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…


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…


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…


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.

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