Workers Rights Attacked. “Unity is our Watchword!” : Jeremy Corbyn

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Protecting the Workers

Trade Unions. They are part of the Labour movement, and we have so much to thank them for. They gave us the weekend, the eight-hour day, and the paid holiday. Now they need our help. Yet again, a Tory Government with an overall majority is trying to crush the unions. They want to be able to use people, as a cheap resource to deliver their wealth. They have no concern for safety, health, dignity or human rights.

Think Left’s article ( 114 year workers’ rights scrapped by coalition government) reveals how long-standing workers’ rights are being eroded by the Coalition government. With legal aid cut, high unemployment and rising costs of living, everyone can see people struggling. How many are aware of how poor workers’ rights and protection in the UK really are?

protection for permanant workers

It is no doubt politics which preys on disaster politics and fear. Fear and lies. The graph shows that protection of permanent working staff in the UK is appalling. The effect of Thatcher’s attack on trade the unions leading to decreased union membership can be seen in perspective. The power of money over the individual struggling alone is immense. One can see how struggling to feed one’s family puts worker against worker, and provides an opportunity for right-wing parties such as UKIP to move in on the scene.

The erroneous lines, “we’re all in it together”, and Cameron’s patronising Keep Calm Dear , while criticised and ridiculed are tolerated by those who believe austerity is necessary, and in  the myth of the need to cut structural deficit though several economists argue otherwise.

Unemployment

Recent figures show unemployment is on the rise again. Not only is this costly, it is a waste of human resources, has  an impact on mental health, and divides working people.

Recently, immigration has become an issue, because families are living in poverty, and are unable to get work.  Meanwhile, there are cuts to the social security protection because of government austerity measures which gives people no hope.  A divided working class is a malleable one. The Tories know that. Tony Benn knew. He said, “People who are poor, demoralised and frightened are easy to control.”  This whips up division and hatred like in the thirties. As Jeremy Corbyn said, “They are trying to reconfigure our society in the image of the 30s. I’m not sure if it’s the 1930s or the 1830s but certainly some kind of 30s.” And we know what that led to.

“The psychology of competition and love of Peace are uneasy bedfellows” Aneurin Bevan

Michael Meacher comments on the recent statistics

“UK unemployment, which is still as high as 1,850,000, is now starting to rise again.   Combined with the jobs standstill, the lack of momentum in pay makes this the most worrying set of labour market figures for a long time.   What is equally disturbing is that almost all the increase in employment since the 2008-9 crash has been accounted for by workers from the EU.   Employment among EU citizens born outside the UK has now risen above 2 million for the first time.   The latest figures point to falling demand for jobs, fewer hours being worked, and little or no evidence of a rise in pay.”

“In that first quarter employment among UK nationals fell by 146,000 while over the same period employment among workers from overseas rose by 91,000.   It also emerged that since 1997 the proportion of employment accounted for by non-UK nationals increased from 3.7% to 10.3%.” Michael Meacher MP

The government has just launched its latest salvo attacking our rights at work.

NUAW strikeThe government’s plans to cut rights for working people, are described in detail, in this document for the TUC (pdf link Trade Union Bill – TUC briefing )

The government expects the Second Reading on the Bill will take place in the House-of-Commons either in September of October 2015.

The main themes are listed here

  1. The proposals will lead to a serious imbalance of power within the  workplace, undermining effective negotiation between employers and unions.
  2. The Conservative proposals will undermine constructive employment relations, extending disputes and making it more difficult to achieve amicable settlements.
  3. The government is not interested in encouraging workplace democracy. Instead , they want to prevent midwives, fire-fighters, teachers and cleaners working within the Underground from protesting against cuts in jobs, pay and conditions.
  4. The right to strike and to protest are  fundamental rights which should be protected in a free and democratic society. The government proposals will impose greater restrictions on trade unions than any other voluntary secret membership organisations.
  5. The Conservatives claim to be the party of working people. However their proposals will remove  employees’ ability to achieve better working conditions and living standards.
  6. Employees will be able to bring in agency workers with a view to breaking strikes, regardless of the consequences for health and safety.
  7. Trade union protests and pickets will be subject to levels of public and police scrutiny and controls that go far beyond what is fair and acceptable in a modern democracy. These changes will also be a waste of police time.

These must be opposed, by protest groups, by trade unions, and also by the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn will stand alongside workers and supports Trade Unions. Unity is our watchword, within the Labour Party, and within the Movement. We need a strong opposition in parliament. It is not acceptable that MPs representing the heart of the Labour Movement are not wholly behind the defence of these fundamental rights. Following this leadership campaign, it is imperative that the Labour Party and the whole Labour movement are united in opposition. We need to be ready to oppose, because you can be absolutely certain that the Tories will be and they do not need any further advantage than they already have. Unity is our watchword. There are more of us, but we will only be heard by a cohesive opposition led by a strong leader, such as Jeremy Corbyn.

The government is trying to make it even harder for unions to collect fees from its members by banning public authorities from deducting fees-direct payslips. It’s designed to cut off yet more money from trade unions and hobble their ability to defend ordinary workers from bully boy employers.

It’s vitally important to show we will defend our trade unions from these government attacks. They’ve given us everything from the weekend to paid maternity leave. If they are hobbled by ideologically driven laws then bad employers across the country will be able to chip away at our hard-won rights.

“Sum of Us Campaign” is already nearly 80,000 people strong. Their campaign contact is listed below.

Our trade unions are worth defending. They protect ordinary workers — care workers, teachers, nurses, shop workers, cleaners — from poor conditions, low pay and unfair dismissal. But now they need our help. Share information, protest, and ensure that this time the government are countered by a strong, united opposition.

More information:

Aspiration as Public Ownership – Start with the Public Railways

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What more can we aspire to, but shelter, food, water and warmth for all – guaranteed?

The great Thatcher sell off of private assets, of energy, water, and transport under the guise that privatised means good, and public ownership bad may have fooled a blinkered few in the 1980s but the vast majority of the public know it has failed, and failed miserably. Important, vital utilities such as these should be under democratic control, and public ownership is a popular way of achieving this. It is scandalous that food and water can be treated as commodities to be gambled with. This was the Ultimate Theft. It has been a disaster, and there is widespread public support to bring these Utilities back into public ownership and democratic control.

Support for nationalisation

YouGov’s poll  shows wide public support for renationalisation of these utilities. Labour should not be running scared because the press says so.

Today, Jeremy Corbyn  announced his plans for a People’s Railway.

People's Railway

Jeremy plans to replace the rolling stock companies (ROSCOs) with a long-term procurement strategy based on strategic long-term investment in the railways to boost manufacturing, skills and jobs across the UK.

He will oversee a process which will ensure that all parts of the railway networks work together for the common good – with strategic management representing the industry, government (local and national), passengers and workers.

Once again Jeremy’s Vision of a new National Investment Bank is focussed as a source of public investment which will enable a co-operative model of public ownership and fund long-term infrastructure improvements and increased accessibility for disabled passengers.

By re-integrating the UK railways and running them co-operatively for the public good, we can bring social, economic and environmental gains:

  • Provide a more modern and integrated service for all passengers
  • More accessible trains and stations for disabled passengers
  • Better terms and conditions for rail workers
  • Benefit the environment by increasing rail capacity and reducing costs to encourage rail over car and air transport
  • Stimulate the economy by increasing investment in new high speed rail, creating jobs and connecting more towns and cities
  • Give passengers, rail workers and politicians more democratic say over the strategic development of UK railways.
  • Cheaper and more easily understood fare tariffs

“The privatisation of the railways fragmented our rail network meaning the most expensive and confusing ticketing structures in Europe,” said Jeremy.  More here

As Jeremy Corbyn has proved many times, he has the clear vision which  the Labour Party – and this country need to find a way forward for people, and for a caring society. Don’t be scared and timid. This beautifully written article  presents the panic of some politicians as fearful, reflex actions take precedence over considered thought. Why then, are so many in the Labour Party clutching at neoliberalism and trying to make Corbyn out to be an extremist? His policies are moderate and socially desirable.

@JuliJuxtaposed writes Aspiration as Public Ownership

Previously Published here

“The latest explosion of ridicule and indignation finds its target in Jeremy Corbyn daring to speak about ‘public ownership of some necessary things‘. Media is abuzz with ideologues, lexical hair-splitters and supercilious interpreters making great effort to draw attention away from any constructive debate. If public ownership of natural monopolies had been advocated as a vehicle of Cameron’s Big Society I wonder whether the response would be this inane.

Clause Four! Clause Four! Oh, my good gods but the hysteria and vitriol, from both political wings, is woeful and tedious in its predictability. The capacity to focus in on the least relevant aspect of a message is remarkable. Clause IV (commitment to the “common ownership of the means of production”), re-nationalisation, pre-distribution, mutualism, socialism… Really, I don’t give a rat’s arse for the semantic games and the expedient framing they afford. The concept matters more than a loaded label, right now and ‘public ownership’ is an appropriate description. I care about the intention behind socio-political ideas, the mechanisms employed in manifesting them and their socio-economic effectiveness. Personally, it’s neither here nor there, to me, whether Labour feels a need to officially re-establish the principle behind Clause IV into its ethos. That’s for the Party to wrestle with. I am just glad that Corbyn is putting the basic principle front and centre.

As I’ve written, several times, over the last couple of years, I’d like for essential utilities and services, for example: energy, water, health, education, public transport.. to be in public ownership. You know: those upon which we all depend for national prosperity and personal well-being. How such public ownership is achieved, at this late stage, is probably going to vary according to entity, current systems, rational and legality so I’m not pretending that there’s a magic, one size fits all formula. However, the debate needs to be had. Rightists may have ‘won’ the argument once, a couple of generations back but it didn’t follow that they were wholly correct, did it..?

Why would the population of a country wish to create public ownership of those utilities and services deemed so essential to a civilised and prosperous Society? Why would such a population choose to hand over such responsibility, accountability, control and profit to (often) mercenary, private corporations? Why is it named ‘aspiration’ when it comes to the traditional reasons for individuals wanting to own their houses or to be self-employed/entrepreneurial but it is called a regressive notion for a whole nation of individuals to scale this up and share the responsibilities and rewards of collective interest?

As you know, I believe that it is We, the People, who are the State and that the Government and Official Opposition are supposed to be agents through which it is represented and its affairs managed. For a long time it has been self-interest that has been represented and public expectation that has been managed. We can’t say the People are represented when even the prospect of valid and valuable arguments is suffocated by the ignorance and hubris of the TINA Brigade and when all permissible discussion has to be funnelled, first, through an Overton Window of pro-exploitative, short-sighted and incoherent modelling. Markets, competition, the private and corporate sectors have their place but it is self-evident that they do not automatically constitute some socio-economic panacea and it is insulting and patronising to keep insisting that they do. I would rather the country comes to see public ownership as a matter of civic participation in an effort to better secure the collective pride and interest and the sovereignty of its citizens. The past and the present prove that the outsourcing of the most basic needs of Society does not.’

The Scary Warnings of C21 Moderniser – Part 2 Through Despair to Building a Social Movement

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Cllr. Lesley Brennan  continues her examination of the circumstances which have led to the Corbyn Phenomenon, and the changes which Labour has undergone since Margaret Thatcher came to power 35 years ago. Through the Thatcher years, and beyond, Labour has metamorphosed from a Centre Left Party to one which  has continued with the ideology of neoliberalism, and  is now entrenched in the right of politics, and seems fearful of the future.   With courage and unity, Labour can be once again, the People’s Party. This journey takes us through history from despair to the future and building a social movement.

The Scary Warnings of the 21st. Century Moderniser (Part2 )

Previously published here 

Cllr. Lesley Brennan, (East End Ward, Dundee  City Council)

@LesleyEastEnd 

lesleynew2015I am a Labour councillor in Dundee and an economist. The main focus of Part 1 (here)  is to unpick assertions made regarding Jeremy Corbyn, whereas Part 2 is a wee jaunt through the economic, social and political changes of the last 35 years, as it is important to remember where we came from, in order to understand where we ought to go.

 

Saying Bye Bye to the Keynesians: 

The Neoliberal Steamroller

The setting up of the welfare state by the Attlee government from 1945 – 1951 signalled solidarity by sharing risk (Baldwin, 1999). By providing a comprehensive safety net, it created cohesion and stability by enriching ‘the concrete substance of civilised life’, reducing ‘risk and insecurity’, and improving the ‘equalisation between the more and the less fortunate at all levels’ (Marshall, 1950).  The adoption of Keynesian economics of full employment and nationalisation also strengthened these bonds. Consecutive Labour and Conservative governments up to 1979 recognised the benefits of this social-democratic welfare state (Harrison and Boyd, 2003:177) and strengthen it for the benefit of all sections of society. Thatcher’s Conservative victory in 1979 led to the mainstreaming of neoliberal policies. These policies transformed British attitudes to ownership and economic responsibility (Moores, 1992); started the erosion of this cohesion; and, promoted individualism where society is little more than a system of economic relations.  Thus, individuals rely on their own abilities for success (Macpherson, 1962) and successes derive from the individual, not society.  Winners are celebrated and the less successful are over-looked.

Saying Buy Buy to Voters:

Politics in the Age of Materialism

The political traction for the neoliberal steamroller was the growth of a new middle class, the ‘affluent worker’, who did not adhere to any political allegiances; their voting behaviour was determined by maximising their own material interests (Haseler, 1989:32). Traditional voting patterns associated with class were largely disregarded, although, this may have been over-estimated (Miliband, 1983)  Thatcherism targeted middle class voters as well as ‘ambitious sections of the working classes with her ideas of popular capitalism and ‘traditional’ values (Harrison and Boyd, 2003:178). Neoliberal – economic liberalism – ideas of competition, entrepreneurship, individual freedoms, minimum government intervention, the reduction of public expenditure, are based on the assumption that individuals are motivated by self-interest (Harvey, 2009).   Thatcher designed policies which were attractive to prosperous middle class households as well as the ambitious working class, such as Right to Buy and people’s capitalism (Perlo, 1959) with the opportunity to buy shares in the privatising of the nationalised industries.  To ensure the majority of the country would support the desired outcome economic incentives would need to be designed, such as selling off the nationalised companies below their value.

Thus, by purchasing shares in British Telecom or British Gas below their value, the share price would increase once open market trading began. Consequently, these policies brought commodification and consumerism to the centre of government policy (Forrest and Murie, 1986). The pinnacle of the neoliberal roll-out was the deregulation of the financial sector, which generated a massive credit boom and this coupled with the income tax cuts caused ‘personal consumption to grow by 6% per annum for three consecutive years’ (Hutton, 1996:13).  The UK’s financial sector helped to reshape the housing market and created an environment for household debt to grow.This deregulation led to increased borrowing, choice in the mortgage market (Smith and Searle, 2010:339) and low risk households found cheaper rates.

This expansion in the mortgage market allowed thousands of public sector tenants the opportunity to buy their home.  Thus, without the deregulation of the financial sector Right to Buy would not have been possible. From the 1980s onwards, more capital was invested in the mortgage market.  Mortgages are an unproductive use of capital as these investments do not create wealth for the economy, as mortgagors are not exploiting the capital for return – they are simply buying a house.  Additionally, the funds lent cannot be used again.  By the late 1990s, the mortgage market had matured with an average growth rate of 5% in comparison to 15% in the 1980s (McLaughlin and Fenton, 2000:3). Banks and buildings societies facing limited future profits – especially as the rate of first time buyers had dropped – needed to innovate to make sure the stock market was confident in their future rate of return. Therefore we see how the financial sector had become inextricably linked to the housing market and underpinned the economic performance of the country.  Coupled with these changes, the British economy underwent a dramatic restructuring from  having a solid manufacturing base employing 7.26 million in 1979 to 2.8 million by 1992 (Hine and Wright, 1998:1500). With this reduction and the increase in imports, British citizens were encouraged to think of themselves as consumers rather than producers (Forrest and Williams, 1984:1164). Thatcher’s emphasis on individual choice and freedoms came to be seen as the origin of the ‘atomised society’ (Minogue, 2006) and the eroding of collective identities.   Policies aimed at shifting away from collectivism may have stemmed from the desire to reduce trade union power and increase flexibility in the labour market, but an unintended consequence was the decrease in community cohesion.  Following the depressions in the 1930s, many economists rejected free markets philosophies due to the massive inequalities (Stiglitz, 2002). Thatcher’s radical policies were ‘regressive, taking British social cohesion for granted while recreating the conditions that in the early part of the [last] century had endangered the very social order she purported to admire’ (Hutton, 1996:54). Collectivism notes that neoliberalism undervalues the benefits of community (Buchanan, 1989); especially, communities in which there is a high level of solidarity.   Solidarity derives from the collective identity and the commitment to shared ideals (Gamson, 1991:45).   Moreover, trust is also created and strengthened by working together for common goals (Putnam, 2000). Where solidarity exists, individuals are expected to support each other (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005).   This interdependency connects individuals and creates social capital.

During the 1980s and early 90s, the Labour Party faced defeat after defeat at the ballot box. There were calls for structural reforms within the Party, which began under Neil Kinnock’s leadership. In 1987 and 1992, Labour’s share of the vote and number of seats won both increased.

Correspondingly, the Tories share of the vote declined from the 1979 level. John Smith never bought the invulnerability of Thatcher’s ‘misguided philosophy’ and thought that the political tide would eventually turn towards Labour (Stuart, 2005:142). Under Smith’s leadership, the New Labour modernisers were concerned that unless the pace of change did not increase, Labour risked being out of government again (Stuart, 2005:290). Accelerated change occurred following John Smith’s death.

The End of History:

New Labour’s Acceptance of Neoliberalism

Politics is values and vision. Political visions are shaped by key influencers, such as Francis Fukuyama (1989), who celebrated the victory of neoliberalism following the end of communism. Moreover, he and others believed the only significant ideological challenge had been overcome. This conceit perhaps became most obvious with John Major’s assertion – at the 1991 Tory Conference – that the UK was moving towards being a ‘classless society’, which neoliberals believed demonstrated Marx’s exploitation of labour could be resolved. By 1998, over 60% of people considered themselves middle class (Gould, 1998:396), perhaps, the general population bought into the idea also.  It was within this context under Tony Blair’s leadership, the Labour Party re-positioned itself to appeal to this middle class. The revised task of the Party was ‘to equip people for change, to shape its impact, to make sense of it, to embrace it in order that we make it work for us’ (Blair, 1998 as cited in Gould, 1998:395).

Thus, the shift was from proactively managing the economy, to an acceptance of the dominance of the market and government’s role in supporting the individual. In other words, the Labour Party moved away from setting the weather to helping people survive the storm. The culture of consumerism and materialism was encouraged by Thatcherism and New Labour continued this theme. There is an acceptance that individualism has led to a decrease in strong social networks and support.   This reduction caused the social tapestry to unravel and become more atomised.

However, to minimise the impacts of this social fragmentation from 1997 the Labour government expanded formal support (e.g. anti-social behaviour teams) and networks to strengthen fragile communities. To ensure that the economy was not fragile, New Labour supported the financial sector, the Bank of England was made independent of government and there was light touch regulation of the sector allowing it to innovate to keep the economy growing. Innovations provided the liquidity for banks and building societies to offer more diverse products such as re-mortgages, this vehicle provided householders with a method for unlocking their housing equity; higher loan to value mortgages; and, buy to let mortgages.

Therefore up until late 2007, it had become easier to acquire credit from lenders and inexpensive for low risk borrowers, whether it was a mortgage to buy a house, an unsecured loan, or a credit card.

But the bubble burst, following the US subprime mortgage crisis.

‘From the autumn of 2007 to the spring of 2009, the media in Britain were full of alarming reports about the western world’s financial system and the dangers facing British banks, culminating in the news that some of these banks had been saved from imminent collapse at enormous public expense’ (Alford, 2010:2). New Labour won three elections and during its 13 years in government, child and pensioner poverty radically reduced; large numbers of schools, hospitals and GP practices were built; peace in Northern Ireland was secured; Scotland, Wales and Northen Ireland established devolved legislative bodies; and, transparency increased with the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act.  However, growing inequality, globalization, market failures especially in the newly privatized sectors and housing were not sufficiently addressed. Moreover, many were disappointed that New Labour did not achieve much more given the size of the majorities they won in 1997, 2001 and 2005 (Hutton, 2011:283). Sadly, voters started questioning Labour’s values.

Money for Nothing:

Housing Wealth

During the 1970s, inheritance became a middle class issue as the first wave of owner occupiers from the 1930s started passing on their wealth.  Wealth accumulates in two ways: interest-induced wealth and price-induced wealth (Speight, 1990:63). Price-induced wealth results from price changes. So, a home-owner may become wealthier if their home increases in value but this can only be realised in full if the property is sold.  Wealth increases the GDP of a country; however, price-induced wealth from housing does not increase wealth as it is a transfer of resources from one generation to another.  Rising house prices mean that new home owners need to borrow absolutely and relatively more than previous generations.  Conseqently, younger households are transferring a higher proportion of their income to older generations.  Thus, it is inequitable.  The Wealth in Great Britain Survey 2006/08 notes that 38% of individuals expect their home to fund their retirement and a further 10% expect a future inheritance (i.e. the sale of a parental home) to provide the income for retirement (Daffin, 2009:xxvi).  This equates to nearly half of the respondents being dependent on the housing market for their future income.  In other words, older generations are assuming that younger owner occupiers will become overly indebted and fund the older generations’ retirement.  This shift in attitudes is significant, and this explains why there has been a growth in financial assets and debt accumulation. In the last five and to ten years, this has resulted in a situation whereby there are transfers from older to younger generations, with respect to housing.  Owner occupier parents are increasingly releasing equity in their home to provide a substantial deposit for their children to be able to buy a property, as this is the only way in which the younger generation can get on the housing ladder.  Thus, once the next generation buys in to the housing market, this continues the complicit cycle of owner occupiers wanting high house price inflation at the expense of the next generation.  It is an unsustainable model.  The real losers of house price inflation are renters, the children of renters and future generations. The Right to Buy policy extended home ownership and allowed renters to jump on to this housing market escalator.  But those tenants who did not, or could not, buy have been left behind.  Renters have no housing wealth and significantly lower values of private pensions than owner occupiers (Daffin, 2009:57).  Their children, therefore, find it difficult to become a new household as the social housing stock has decline and owner occupation has become more unaffordable.  Thus, inequality deepens.

Increasing Inequality:

Increasing Despair

Inequality can arise from income and wealth. Inequalities of wealth between individuals fell considerably between the 1920s and the 1970s (Hills, 2013).  However, it started to rise again from the 1970s but internationally the speed of this growth varies, which indicates political and institutional differences (Piketty, 2014:237). Thus, political choices are influencing this inequality. ‘In 1974, the top one percent of families [in USA] took home nine percent of GDP; by 2007, that share had increased to 23.5 percent’ (Fukuyama, 2012). The UK is the fourth most unequal with respect to the income equality, out of the 30 OECD countries (The Equality Trust, 2015). This is a result of political decisions. New Labour was concerned with ‘not to cap the top but to raise the bottom’ (Hutton, 2011:282). Between 1997 and 2007, income inequalities caused during the Tory years ‘were almost perfectly preserved’ (Dorling, 2011:139).

Inequality is an issue for society. There are negative societal effects associated with inequality, such as it can increase distrust (Gustavsson & Jordahl, 2008); reduce voter turnout (Solt, 2008), reduced participation in cultural activities (Szlendak & Karwacki, 2012), and ill-health (Pickett & Wilkinson, 2015, Rowlingson, 2011).

Fairness is central to a decent society. Thus, inequality must be reduced. In order to reduce inequality, it is vital to recognise that some people and groups have more influence and access to power than others, including lobbyists. Organisations that engage lobbyists gain a competitive advantage (Schuler & Cramer, 2002).   Or as Fukuyama states, ‘elites in all societies use their superior access to the political system to protect their interests, absent a countervailing democratic mobilization to rectify the situation’ (2012). Thus, the domination of corporate and elite interest groups in politics needs to be addressed if more redistribution and a significant reduction in inequality is to be achieved. A mobilised movement is needed too, to ensure democracy.

Challenging the Acceptance of Austerity

When New Labour entered government in 1997, it inherited a debt of 42% of GDP from the Tories, at the start of the banking crisis this had fallen to 35%, and having bailed-out the banks, it increased to 60% (ONS, 2011).  Following Labour’s defeat in 2010, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government embarked on austerity programme, its aim was to reduce the deficit, which is the gap between the government’s spending and its income. However, these cuts contracted demand in the economy.  It is important to remember that the UK is the sixth richest in the world. When the economy contracts, economic theory suggests the solution is fiscal expansion: increase government spending both to create jobs directly and to put money in consumers’ pockets; cut taxes to put more money in those pockets. But based on ideology, the Tories opted to continue the fiscal cuts. The impact of these cuts has been devastating from job losses in the public sector; the additional stress and personal debt from the introduction of the bedroom tax; street lighting being switched off after midnight; increased charges for social services; to the cruel sanctions by DWP; and now child tax credits will be cut.  Jeremy Corbyn recognises that it is low income families, disabled people, young people, public sector workers, and our public services that are bearing the brunt of the Tories’ political choices, not economic necessities. This is why he voted against the Welfare Bill. Jeremy’s paper ‘An Economy for 2020’ highlights the Tory’s political choices including to cut inheritance tax changes, which will lose the government over £2.5 billion in revenue between now and 2020. It is a political choice to have a corporation tax that is half of the United States’ rate. Inequality is deepening due to the extreme Tory neoliberalism. This has to be robustly challenged.  The reason Jeremy is standing for leader is because ‘Labour shouldn’t be swallowing the story that austerity is anything other than a new facade for the same Tory plans’.

The Way Forward:

Building a Social Movement

Jeremy Corbyn recognises that ‘Britain is not working well for most people’ and that ‘more of the same won’t work’.

He, with members and supporters, will build a new social movement to bring about real change in our country. Thus, his candidacy is not about simply being an oppositionist but gaining power and changing society. Jeremy Corbyn aims to modernise the Labour Party in order for it to adapt to the contemporary times. ‘The tragedy of New Labour was that it offered no serious intellectual challenge’ to neoliberalism (Hutton, 2011:397). The only way to move on is to recognise that the ‘classless society’ is a fallacy and neoliberalism does not address this conflict that the system is dependent on exploiting workers. The Party needs to move from this ideological vacuum.  Over the last 35 years, risk shifted from the state to individuals. Vulnerability and insecurity has increased. Neoliberalism with its culture of consumerism and materialism has boosted the economy but reduced our well-being (Kasser, 2002). Jeremy’s vision for free university education inspires our young people. Jeremy understands the issues facing women. Jeremy’s plan for a fairer economy is ‘focused on hi-tech and innovation and the infrastructure to support that, rebuilding supply chains to stimulate private sector demand’. Thus, the economy will be boosted and private sector will benefit.  Jeremy also plans to rebalance the economy ‘away from finance towards the high-growth, sustainable sectors of the future’. Thus, diversifying the economy will make it less vulnerable to financial shocks. People across the whole of the UK are feeling a large degree of discontent with the Westminster system. There is a real sense that their own involvement in politics will have little effect on the way the country is run and supports the view that they have very little influence on decision making: only 26% feel they have at least ‘some’ influence locally and only 14% nationally (Hansard, 2014). I see Jeremy leading reform of Westminster, such as “a citizen led politics of everyday democracy not just a vote once every five years” (Lawson, 2014). People are hungry for the changes that Jeremy has spoken of and, are joining the Labour Party or are registering as supporters in their tens of thousands. His campaign is building momentum. His campaign is engaging the next generation of Labour voters. His campaign is building a social movement to create change. “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope” (Keller, 1903). I strongly believe that beacons of hope must have a realistic chance of being delivered.  Progressive change is needed within the UK. Progressive change is achievable within the UK. Progressive change is within touching distance for the whole UK by voting for Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.

Download Part 2 of Lesley’s article >>>

Jeremy Corbyn The Economy in 2020

Back to part one

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Why a vote for Corbyn is a vote for electability

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Why a Vote for Corbyn is a Vote for Electability

From Neil Schofield, Previously published here

Three days before the 1983 election, I attended a rally in Oxford Town Hall. It was in the days when it was still possible to come in off the street to a Labour leader’s rally, and the speaker was Michael Foot. The atmosphere was revivalist, a packed hall cheering on their much-loved leader.  How could Labour possibly lose in the face of such enthusiasm?  But of course the result is history.

More than thirty years on, I found myself attending Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign rally in Cardiff – according to media coverage one of the largest political gatherings in Wales since the Miners’ Strike.  The atmosphere was incredible – more than a thousand people crowded into the hall, standing room only, people with decades of Labour activism behind them, others coming to politics for the first time.  At its heart, a speech by Jeremy Corbyn that was passionate and powerful – but also detailed; this was not rabble-rousing but thoughtful and argued through.  He was given a massive ovation by an eclectic audience.

Jeremy Corbyn addresses a rally in Cardiff, 11 August 2015

And I reflected – could we be deceiving ourselves in the same way that we were in 1983?  Was this just an audience of the converted, wanting to be enthused, oblivious to the harsh political realities outside?

But this time the fundamentals feel very different.

In 1983 the Thatcher myth was at its most potent. A year beforehand, the Task Force was still steaming south to the Falklands. The Labour Party had been split by the defections to the SDP. More importantly, the intellectual tide was flowing overwhelmingly in Thatcher’s direction; these were the halcyon days of neoliberalism, with the economy emerging from deep recession and the sale of council houses proceeding apace. Only weeks after a crushing electoral defeat, the situation for Labour, although obviously extremely difficult, is different in a way that Corbyn’s critics – especially those within Labour claiming he is unelectable – appear not to have understood.

To understand why you need to think about the wider political background.  In Britain – as in much of the Western world – the set of ideas that is often lumped together under the name “neoliberalism” has a near complete hegemony in Government.  Policies are being pursued – especially following the economic crisis of 2007/8 – that involve reducing public expenditure, shrinking the non-coercive state,  on the promise that this is the only way to engineer a sustainable economic recovery.

But that recovery is palpably not happening.  Faced with continuing and swingeing falls in living standards, increased Government deficits in the face of shrinking economies; increasingly insecure and short-term employment; continued asset price bubbles, especially in housing, to the point where the essentials of life are becoming increasingly unaffordable; and, most of all, globally increasing inequality to levels not seen for more than a century, it’s obvious there is a huge problem.  It’s perhaps best exemplified by the fact that, in Britain at least, the number of people in full-time work who are falling into poverty is rising substiantially; the basic deal behind market capitalism, that a worker can achieve a decent standard of living by selling their labour, increasingly does not hold. Morevoer, as a strategy for reducing the deficit, it has failed spectacularly.

At the same time, the social democratic parties that presided over the welfare capitalism of the 1950s and 1960s are in deep existential crisis.  In Britain, despite the cruelties of the coalition, Labour suffered a crushing defeat in the 2015 election.  It was wiped out in Scotland, once its heartland.  The official reaction to this defeat has been to assume that Labour can only win by moving its policies closer to the Tory government – on social security, on immigration, above all on deficit reduction.  In other words, the ground over which mainstream political debate is conducted is being narrowed, while increasingly those excluded from that debate are bearing the brunt of the politics of austerity.

There is a comment usually ascribed to Karl Rove about the politics of the liberal social democratic opposition to neoliberalism: “when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.  We’re history’s actors …. and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”  Change that last “study” to “follow” and you have New Labour’s dilemma expressed with brutal clarity – it’s still fighting a war when the battlefront is elsewhere.  And people can see that; its language no longer inspires because reality has moved on.  Talk of “electability” is two elections out of date; it has nothing to say in particular to those who have walked away from political engagement in bewilderment and, quite often, disgust. In 2015 the Conservative Party gained a Parliamentary majority with 24% of the electorate; Labour was wiped out in its Scottish heartland by a party offering the appearance (if certainly not the reality) of being anti-austerity; but its leadership still says that electoral success lies in adopting the language and framing that wooed barely a quarter of the electorate, while millions of the young, the poor, the most vulnerable stayed at home – or voted SNP, Green or (especially in Labour’s traditional heartlands) in despair for UKIP.  Labour held millions of conversations, but, it appears, at no more than the most superficial level. Labour activists and organisers talk about the doorstep; but often seem to me to be afraid to have real conversations that offer challenge and hope.

What the Labour leadership election has done is blown that open.  In previous elections, candidates from the left have stood – and even encouraged from the Right to stand – in order to ensure a “debate”, after which the inevitable win for a centrist candidate has ensured that Westminster usiness as usual can be carried on with an apparent mandate.  Corbyn’s candidacy – apparently conceived in the same vein, as the means to a debate – has changed everything and brought people flooding into the Party.

Why? Because, for the first time in decades, a candidacy in a Labour leadership campaign has connected with intellectual, political and social currents outside the immediate Labour Party – something far bigger than the Labour Party has in recent years become, but – I’d argue – something much closer to the purpose for which Labour was founded.  It’s not about Corbyn as an individual – decent and principled though he undoubtedly is – but about the values he espouses, and most of all about the fact that he articulates a challenge to the politics and economics of austerity, in a way that reaches out to a far bigger audience than existing mainstream politics.  This is about taking control of the political narrative; about offering, not a reaction to neoliberalism but an alternative to it.  Corbyn has tapped into value systems that have remained confined to the fringes or expressed quietly by Labour members in defiance of their Westminster masters; a value system that found expression in the vote for the SNP in Scotland.

And it won’t do to talk about entryism – it’s just not credible.  Michael Crick of Channel 4 News has offered a fine and useful analysis – summed up in a sentence, there just aren’t that many Trots.  This is something bigger, to which the Labour mainstream appears to have no response whatsoever.

There is a narrative that states, Tony Blair won three elections for Labour. We can therefore only be electable from the centre.  That first of all misunderstands the nature of triangulation – it was about the use of conservative language to provide space for progressive political measures; something that New Labour achieved significantly in its pre-Iraq phase.  But more importantly it misunderstands the fact that the economic fundamentals have changed.  New Labour was based on harnessing growth from a largely functioning economic system to pay for moderate redistribution; but, after the 2007-8 crash that option has not been available – the extent to which market capitalism is broken is much more obvious. Real wages have fallen to the point where in-work poverty is rampant (making talk of being “the party of work” basically frivolous).  There is, in the UK, an effective investment strike in which capital stock is not even being renewed.  Given that the UK has a sovereign currency, all of these issues are far more significant than the deficit; yet Blair’s successors seem unable to move beyond that.  Their mindset is in the mid-1990s, unable to come to terms with what has happened since then.

Electability comes down, in the end, to relevance.  Corbyn’s insurgency, going way beyond the mainstream Labour party, has connected with trends and thinking that lies completely outside the Westminster bubble.  Above all, it has been founded in hope – a belief that things can be different and that the Labour Party can be, once again, the vehicle to make that change. In the meantime, conventional social democracy is, throughout Europe, in crisis because it cannot break out of the neoliberal framing of economics and politics – it allows itself to be defined by its opponents.

That brings huge challenges.  To win elections, form governments and effect change you need structures and discpline.   The Green Party’s disastrous track record in Brighton shows what happens when you have neither; Green councillors, faced with tough decisions, either threw a strop or threw in the towel.  Labour is a party of Government – its unique genius has been to bring together a broad progressive group of often diverse people and to build on that diversity to deliver in office – and has to do so much better than that, and the need to take tough decisions in the face of conflicts and trade-offs is going to require discipline from supporters and, from its leaders, a commitment to openness and accountability a world away from New Labour’s top-down institutional authoritarianism.

But the possibility is there.  For Labour, this looks like a choice between a high-risk vote for a leader who can lead its adaptation to a very different world to that faced by Tony Blair twenty years ago, and who can help it to lead the debate, and electing a leader who cannot see the changes going on outside the Westminster bubble and offers no real alternative to the neoliberal value system.  For me, the latter is simply a guarantee of further decline; it is the former that offers the way to move the debate away from neoliberal territory and to reconnect with the voters who have in their millions turned against a political system that simply doesn’t offer an alternative.

Obviously I do not know what the outcome of the election will be, and I suspect it will be a much closer affair than the media currently suggest.  But whoever is Labour leader will have to face some fundamental decisions; the genie cannot be rebottled.  The choice seems to me to be simple – a choice between harnessing and leading the surge in support that has brought hundreds of thousands into the Party – high risk but with the possibility of effecting real change –  or a turning away back inside the Westminster bubble and a slow but inevitable decline.  I want to see the Labour Party as a force that can deliver real change, and which does not accept austerity as inevitable; which can react to the fundamental changes in political discourse the Corbyn surge exemplifies.  And that’s why I’m backing Jeremy Corbyn as the electable candidate.