What would Clement do?

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

Archive for the tag “Uk Politics”

Mcluskey Balls…

Well, day two of  Labour Conference ( after Labour Womens Conference yesterday), and we have our first official spat, between UNITE union leader Len Mcluskey, and Ed “not THAT Ed” Balls…

To be fair, Mr Mcluskey was supporting a compromise motion, merely “noting” disagreement with Ed Balls’ policy of pay restraint in the public sector, in defence of public sector jobs. In a sense, this is what union leaders are for – defending conditions, pay AND jobs, so it is hardly surprising that “Red Len” made this speech, and in the interests of debate, it was right for him, on behalf of his members, to do so. 

I suspect that Rob Marchant over at The Centre Left blog will disagree, in reasonable language, and then once again propose a divorce between Labour and the unions, in the interest of progress (or is that Progress?). Coupled with his interview in the Sunday Times, Mr Mcluskey has declared war on the right wing of Labour, and in particular the blairite organisation Progress and its supporters. Are they “cuckoos in the nest” of the Labour Party, as he asserts, or are they a legit part of our movement?  My feeling is that Mcluskey has some valid points, but that declaring war will do much more harm than good.

You see, many of those “cuckoos” are exactly the people who stayed with the party through thick and thin. Like Mcluskey, they didn’t leave over Iraq, the elder statesmen of the right fought elections and the SDP splits of the 1980s, they have shown the sort of loyalty to the party that should be commended. Politically, I have huge problems with many of their ideas, certainly with the way that Progress is funded, and its influence at the higher level of internal politics. But critics of Progress need to understand that these people have put in the hours, and taken the knocks that working for a political party year in year out brings.

Mcluskey’s true beefs with the Progress crowd, that they are ultimately against the union link, that they want to carry-on with the failed New Labour policies that ignored the needs of working people, and failed to combat increasing inequality, have a certain ring of truth about them. The tactics that Mcluskey is using however, only play into the hands of our Tory supporting press. And as for saying that your criticism is only of ed Balls, and not Miliband, well, that is not going to hold, is it? To my mind, Balls is probably right on pay restraint in general, although there are strong arguments for protecting and increasing the pay of the low paid…

And what of Ed B’s big speech today, straight after Mcluskey’s criticism? Would he fall into the trap of responding directly? Would we see a return to some level of infighting? Well, Ed is too long in the tooth to fall into that trap at least…

Ed gave us a comprehensive and engaging demolition of Coalition economic policy, and lack thereof. Coupled with the now usual stress on our unity, and, unlike the Liberal Democrats, it seems that Labour politicians actually can make funny one-liners… 

” If David Cameron’s butch, where does that leave George Osborne?”

Lib Dem Conference Latest…

… just in…

In Brighton this week, Danny Alexander was publicly thanked by failed minister Sarah Teather for making her look good…

… Breaking News…

…The Lib Dem Glee Club has replaced “F*** off Tony Blair and die” with a more appropriate song that fits their standing in the polls – Tom Lehrers’ “We Will All Go Together When We Go”…

(For the original offensive Lib Dem song, see this – http:www.labourlist.org/2012/09/lib-dem-conference-goers-sing-tony-blair-can-fk-off-and-die/  )

…And in what may yet be seen as his best speech ever, Little Nicky shows his grasp of History, the laws of Physics, and primary colours:

“The past is the past…”  “…we can’t return to the past…”  ” Blue + Yellow = Green…”

So, altogether now – “Red and yellow and pink and blue…”

Two years in for Ed M

So, it is two years since Ed Miliband gained the leadership of the Labour party, and over at Labour List, plenty of people are taking stock. I think we can be allowed, as Labour supporters, to raise two cheers so far…

We are convincingly ahead in the polls, and this side of the Tory conference, the narrative for the Government is definitely in their hands. Nothing looks as bad as a Government seemingly not in control, one that has also managed to present itself as being sticking firmly to its plans whilst U-turning everywhere; on Forests, on Pasty Tax, on almost anything rather than its most unpopular policies.

Mr Miliband has done something that no Labour Leader has done in eighteen years or more – he has questioned the authority of free markets, and whether they are always the only option when it comes to the economy. This, after the crash, is a vital move, giving hope that we can move towards a modern Social Democratic government in 2015.

With his handling of the Leveson Inquiry and its fallout, Ed has been widely praised. Rightly so, he played a good game and has had the Government on the back foot ever since. He backed voting reform, without being associated with they dismal failure of the Yes campaign over AV.

As leader, he has grown in his role – for all the sniping of the right of the party (someone mention Progress?), he has managed to best an increasingly loud and puce David Cameron in The House of Commons, and has silenced (for now) the internal critics oh, and John “Rental” Rentoul.

Midway through this Parliament, the media, and the rest of us, can see Ed Miliband as PM, or at least a serious contender. The low personal rating as opposed to David Cameron as a minor worry to me, as it is normal for a sitting Prime Minister to look more, well, Prime Ministerial. These figures can change, and it would take little to change David Cameron from popular to unpopular. He is already out of favour in his own party, much earlier than Edward Heath was in the 1970s, and there are already stirrings on his back benches.

Milibands’ first speech toy Conference encapsulated al the reasons to support him – including drawing a line under the Blair/Brown years, notably on Iraq. His positioning himself (and us) as an inclusive opposition, trying to heal the rifts of the last eleven years was, and remains a masterstroke.

Yet I do worry. I worry that the polls are just a mid-term blip, that someone will start the back office sniping once again. That Ken Livingstone will try to stuff up Conference from his seat on the NEC.

I also worry that Eds’ management of the part factions in the Shadow Cabinet is storing up problems – Stephen Twigg at Education is a prime example , but others, such as Liam Byrne remain in place.

I worry that those years spent as a SpAd, all that triangulation, all that hanging out in Westminster, far away from the housing estates and run-down town centres where Labour needs to make a difference, will reassert itself.

So two cheers for Ed, so far so good, but we all have much more work to do to win…

Salma, George and who do we let in?

 On the 11th September, following the furore caused by George Galloway’s bizarre defence of Julian Assange and his definition of rape, Salma Yaqoob honourably resigned as leader of the Respect Party.

Approximately thirty seconds later, online speculation began as to whether Ms. Yaqoob would be joining Labour, The Greens or pretty much any other left of centre party.

Although within Labour the debate has divided into two predictable camps, with Rob Marchant at Centre Left giving a detailed “No” and Andy Newman over at Socialist Unity being pretty positive to the idea, it was, inevitably that arch-opportunist Caroline Lucas of The Green Party who was first out of the traps in the race for the Order of the Brown Nose:

I really hope that Salma Yaqoob’s resignation from Respect doesn’t mean she’s leaving politics – we need her vision and clarity

Now this roughly translates from Politician to Human as “Ooh! Join my lot please! Then we can stick it to Labour and no mistake!” Which, considering the former Green Leaders’ endorsement of Salma at the 2010 election comes as no surprise, and it could very well be that Salma Yaqoob joins Lucas, if only for want of another political home. It also ties into the Greens’ courting of Muslim Association of Britain, which in 2010 led to MAB urging its supporters in southeast England to vote Green…

Lets be clear, Salma Yaqoob has campaigned consistently against not just the Iraq war, like many Labour members have, but also against the Labour Party. Now this is not a new phenomenon, as a look at our past reveals. Dr John Reid, Peter Mandleson,Denis Healy, Denis Howell, Bessie Braddock and Ellen Wilkinson were all at one time members of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and as such campaigned against Labour before joining.  Salma Yaqoob has had a pretty good record as politician in saying that she is standing up for those ignored by New Labour, and talking about this in terms relating to class. So far so good, especially when you take into account the threats and harassment meted out to her by the banned extremist al Gurabaa organisation in 2005 – for having the audacity to be a muslim woman involved in politics. (Despite having MAB support)

Yet I fear any move to incorporate a politician who can prove to be so divisive, just for the sake of a few votes, possibly on the basis of perceived “muslim” support. It smacks of the Blairite realpolitik that led to Labour re-admitting Ken Livingstone after 2000, and we know here that led now, don’t we?

The wider issue for Labour is not simply whether or not a formidable local and national campaigner now wants to join Labour, or even if she is allowed to join our party, but what our attitude should be towards the thousands of people who have at some time or another since 2003 joined and campaigned for parties such as Respect. People like Andy Newman, who I pretty much disagree with on most things, has decades of campaigning under his belt for example. Not just in the SWP,ANL, Stop The War and Respect, but also as a trades union activist and Labour Party member in the early 1980s. After his pretty open split with the SWP a few years ago, he has run a non-sectarian blog at Socialist Unity (often full of Stalinists and Trots, but nobody’s perfect…). The nature of his split from his former comrades means that he is certainly not an entryist vanguard, and the nature of his sterling work with the GMB for its members at Carillion in Swindon means that he is the kind of activist we need with the party.

Particularly since the election of Ed Miliband, people have been coming back to Labour, not just as voters, but as members – and in general, this is a good thing. But as Rob points out in his blog, we must be careful who exactly is joining. We certainly have to avoid the 1980s experience of Militant and others using the party for their own ends, to our detriment. Leaving aside personalities, I think that so far the balance has been well kept. It would be pretty difficult for anyone within the party to make a convincing case for the return of George Galloway, and, to a much lesser extent, perhaps Salma Yaqoob should be treated as a former opponent who might, just might be suitable for membership at a future date.

ONLY ONE JOHNSON…

Yes, sad but true, there is only ONE Boris Johnson.

To read the recent press coverage, some Tories, and possibly all Westminster hacks wish there were at least two, possibly three, with at least one in the House of Commons. One for City Hall, one to annoy Cameron, and one for “the ladies”. (Maybe another to make sure that the press is suitably gagged when any mention of his extra marital affairs and resulting possible offspring come up…)

Johnson has clearly been putting it about since the Olympics, parking his tanks on Davids lawn, getting the cheers whilst Hamface gets the boos, ignoring the debt he owes to previous incumbents and Governments for his good fortune, fudging figures and avoiding a scandal over provision for the London Fire Service. And it is working…

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (OE, Oxon) is the most popular politician in the country. 

There are some signs that this may be a cause for alarm for his own dear leader, yet before we rub our hands with glee, let us stop to think for a moment. Johnson is popular with the public for a number of reasons, and a skilful media operation is one of them. Not being in Parliament, and therefore not being really in the Coalition helps. So far in his career, Mr Johnson has had no significant national responsibility, save being in the Shadow Cabinet, which means he spent his time, at best, say “well would never do that…”. He even managed to get sacked from the front bench then.

So far in his career, Johnson has presented himself as something he isn’t. For example, although he has an Eton/Oxbridge background, and drops a classics reference at the drop of a microphone, he simply is not as posh as he would like us all to believe. Like many from the old “upper-lower middle class” (copyright Mr E.A. Blair), he spent much of his school and Varsity days aping the supposed manners of Waughs’ “Brideshead” set. His anachronistic language, his cultivated scruffiness, his shambling gait are all very much part of his mid-eighties “young fogey” image.

The BoJo & HamCam rivalry continues…

In his job as Mayor of London, he has been the cynics very epitome of a politician, in that he has so far been able to distance himself from both Central Government policies, and his own policies when they are unpopular, yet claim credit for anything and everything perceived as good that happens within his jurisdiction. He has, since being elected in 2008, been notably ruthless in his disposal of deputy Mayors, as long as he can evade any blame.

As of this week, fourteen letters have been received by the Tory 1922 committee to open nominations for a leadership election. Though hugely short of the forty-six letters needed, this comes less than three years into Camerons’ premiership, and within weeks of Tory part conference. Clearly there are concerns throughout the true blue mob that possibly they need someone less chillaxed in charge, someone other than The Hamfaced Crimson Tide…

I hate to agree with John Major, but last Sunday he did say one thing that fans of the Johnson forget – he is not an MP, and therefore cannot become Leader. True enough, a safe seat may be found, someone convinced to stand down, a by-election could be won, yet the history of Tory Leadership elections shows that it is never the original favourite who wins, as Heath, Heseltine, and David Davis know to their chagrin.

Personally, I think that he may prefer the job of Mayor, where you can ultimately cash-in with your Telegraph column, then blame central Government for any mess. Should ever stand for/become Leader of the Tories, I relish the challenge, because I doubt that his image would withstand the full force of public and media scrutiny that he would inevitably attract. He simply would not be able to keep his past indiscretions from becoming front page news.I also do not think that Johnsons’ right wing instincts actually chime with the general public. True enough, they finds him amusing, much in the same way that Jeremy Clarkson once was, but for a rightwing humorist, he is certainly no PJ O’Rourke, and as Clarkson knows to his cost, it only takes one slip to taint your brand…

So for me, the current shenanigans say more about Cameron and his weakness than they do about the popularity of Johnson.

Film Fun???

Well, I don’t know about you, but “The Iron Lady” mania has left me decidedly liverish. Oh, its been fun to watch her former colleagues like Douglas Hurd line up to slam the oddly apolitical movie as some kind of betrayal, especially as he was one of the first to line up and stab her in the front back in 1990 – “disrespectful” indeed…

I suppose it might be the posters of La Streep in full Maggie-up staring out at me from every bus, sending me back to the 1980s, or the reported lack of fact ( for example, Micheal Foot gave a universally praised speech in favour of war with Argentina, one Tory Mp commenting that he had just “spoken for Britain”, yet he is portrayed a’la Sun Newspaper style as some kind of Junta stooge…)

Or could it be that, as I understand it, on opening night, Cinemas in London were pretty full, yet in at least one theatre in Manchester, only 70 people could be bothered to turn up – in an auditorium that normally holds 400.

I suppose this tells us something about her actual legacy.

Personally, I am much more excited by Ralph Fiennes’ “Coriolanus” – which by all accounts has a pretty progressive attitude to the plebeians – a touchstone for any interpretation…

…NEWS FROM SOMEWHERE…

By: Our Staff Liar –

In a shock outburst this week, a fictitious source close to Nick Clegg announced that he was “unavailable” for comment, for discussion, or indeed for anything other than helping Samantha Cameron around the house.

Sources close to the Prime Monster’s other partner mentioned “doing the ironing, cleaning the bathroom, oh, and we need more Hobnobs.” as a fair summation of Mr Cleggs’ enhanced role.

Meanwhile, fibbers close to Danny Alexander, the Scottish Annoyance at The Treasury declared  him to be “pleased” on being declared “More annoying than Alex Salmond” by a leading made-up focus group…*

In other party of my imagination, Chris Huhne has been spotted doing a merry jig to the demise of Silvio Berlusconi. This long awaited retirement places the dull Huhne at last in the top ten of Western Europes’ leading political philanderers, ahead of that bearded LibDem who likes Eastern European assistants for their brains. ” For years everyone thought I was the dull one” said Huhne, “Well now I’m the dull one who left his wife by text.”

* One source from the group was quoted – “Its not that he’s Scottish, or that he’s ginger, its because he is Danny Alexander – he just stands there, two feet behind George Osborne with a slight smirk on his pasty face.” Said the anonymous Mr Kennedy.

 

ED,WHAT ARE YOU THINKING????

Much toss is being written and spoken about Maurice Glassman’s  “Blue Labour” witterings, and he seems to have Ed’s ear at the moment…

Clem is all for a bit of Labour nostalgia – how could I not be? Just look at the site name. But Glassman has made some pretty fundamental errors in his analisys of pre-1945 Labour, and has also made a very stupid error in political judgement…

Last year, it was all about the “Red Tory”- Philip Blond’s supposed re-jigging of One-Nation Toryism. I see very little of this in evidence as The Coalition rips the heart from the NHS, attacks minorities and pursues its Monetarist economic agenda with uncommon zeal.

Glassmans response – under the title “Blue Labour” looks for all the world like nothing so much as a pale imitation of failed Policy-Wonkage on the right – never a good move. In fact, it looks suspiciously similar to “The Project” launched in the early nineties by Mandleson, Blair and Brown, now thankfully over, or so we thought…

In truth, the “statism” that Glassman attributes to the 1945 Labour Government was far more complex and subtle than he portrays. And the “golden age” he finds before this date includes most of the major figures of Labours greatest Government. To whit:

” Given the choice between Liberty and Equality, I would choose Liberty every time.” – Ernest Bevin, a major figure in the TUC who pressed for support of the Spanish Republican Government, whilst fighting against stalinist influence withing the TGWU and wider Labour Movement.

Herbert Morrison – as Labour Leader of the London County Council, oversaw the great slum clearances of the 1930s improving Londoners lives for the better, working with Local Authorities, and often in the teeth of Central Government opposition. As a Labour minister, worked with Nye Bevan to create the NHS, which was initially modeled on  locally accountable provision for local needs – Bevan’s ideas for its growth envisaged the Health Centre at the heart of the community, and Community Health Councils – an extension of Municipal Socialism.

Major Attlees own brand of Socialism, rooted in his experiences in the East End and influenced by the Guild school of thought was also deeply patriotic – this man took  Turkish Bullet for goodness sake!  And was one of the two last men off the beach at Suvla Bay.The mainstream of Labour opinion has never, unlike the far Left, been unpatriotic – without Attlee in 1940, Churchill may never have become Leader. Without Bevin, there may very well have been no Attlee. Attlees own conservatism on constitutional issues may be decried now, but you cannot deny his love of Crown and Country, as unaffected and honest as Churchills.

To the end of his days, even an “inveterate peace monger” such as Micheal Foot remained intensely patriotic, and in 1982 his speech calling for war with fascist Argentina was declared the best in the debate – unsurprising from the author of “The Guilty Men” really…

In reality, the 1945 Government had to use the means at its disposal in very tough times to rebuild Britain. The war left us broke and devastated. The economy was already pretty much centrally controlled, and had been for six years, out of necessity. In most legislation in the social sphere, although centrally planned, services were planned to be locally administered and accountable. And it is difficult to question the patriotism of a Government that stood up to Stalin, developed a nuclear deterrent, helped form NATO, fought communism in Greece and Korea, whilst overseeing a massive retreat from Empire, with little help, if any, from our allies, the USA. 

Oh, and there was a Royal Wedding too…

So lets have no more jabber about “Blue Labour”, instead let us revive something that “informed opinion” has long derided – Red Patriotism.

 

WHY I AM VOTING YES TO AV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Nicky and the Tribalists.

So today, after keeping schtumm for the whole campaign, Nick Clegg wades in with a fairly coherent op-ed article in The Telegraph. So far, so good – a reasonable, reasoned argument for reform, in Britains’ most august Tory daily.

Sadly, he followed this up with a massively partisan and mendacious attack  on the Labour Party with his follow-up speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research. Little Nicky simply repeated Osborns canard that Labour would have cut only £2bn less than The Coalition is doing. This would be fine if we were still fighting the May 2010 election, but that was a year ago. It completely ignores the changes made on economic policy by both Ed Miliband and Ed Balls. It also ignores the economic facts of life.

Unemployment – In the last quarter of 2010, this fell by just 12,000 (0.1%). At the same time, our GDP fell by 0.5%, apparently this was caused by snow in December – a previously unheard of event. In Barak Obamas USA, under a radically different economic regime to the austerity we suffer, unemployment fell by 1 Million (1%), and in the last quarter of 2010, their GDP ROSE by 0.8%.

YEAR-ON- YEAR, OUR ECONOMY HAS SHRUNK BY 1.5% UP UNTIL MARCH 2011! WELL DONE GIDEON!!!

The OECD, which Osborn so often quotes as supporting him, has issued the following economic forescasts for GDP over the next two years:

                               USA            UK

2011                      2.2%          1.5%

2012                     3.1%           2.0%

So, in the midst of a Referendum Campaign, when it is imperative that ALL Party members who support change work together, why has Clegg thrown such a massive spanner in the works? The cynical answer could be that he is intent on sabotaging his own cause, on the basis that he doesn’t really want it, and it was only a sop to his activists anyway.

Could it be Coalition loyalty? Possibly,but for the life of me, I cannot credit the Cabinet Office stipulating that he preface a call for electoral reform with an attack on a party who’s supporters need to be won over.

No, I believe that in essence, for Nick, this is simply politics as usual. For all the guff about “new politics”, up and down the country, anyone involved in local politics knows just how nasty the Lib Dems can play. From personal insults to pretend innocence, the centre party of British debate plays rough, whilst appearing doe-eyed before us.

“Who me?” They cry, whilst dressed like a harlot in a Wedding Dress. Not only this, but certainly the Orange Bookers have swallowed whole the economic nonsense that passes for thought in the pages of the Daily Mail.

Let me state this as clearly and simply as I can; Austerity following the kind of recession we have seen leads to more unemployment. Higher unemployment leads to lower wages for those in work, to smaller tax receipts, and more austerity. It is a downward spiral leading to a car boot sale economy. And Nick Clegg thinks this is a good idea. 



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