From Cradle to Grave – Jeremy Corbyn’s National Education System

From Cradle to Grave – Jeremy Corbyn’s National Education System

It is seventy years this week, since the Labour Party achieved a landslide victory after the war. It must have been so exciting looking forward to peace, to the promise of a better world for ordinary people. Homes for all, and a National Health Service, a Welfare state.

Daily-Herald-27-July-1945Daily Herald “Labour in Power” 27th July 1945

Those days were remembered, in Think Left’s blog Academisation and the Demolition of our Education System

After the war, the hope was that the Labour Party would introduce policies which would change the lives of working class people, leading to a fairer society, and a fair education system was on their list.

It was not just the working class who knew things needed to change. It had been clear that there was a shortage of skills during the war, and this led to the 1944 Education Act  which led to the provision of free state education for all children from 5 -15.

The incoming socialist Labour government, led by Attlee, and inspired by Bevan, brought in popular policies, especially the introduction of a universal National Health Service, and an extensive social housing building programme. To the disappointment of many, a universal National Education Service was not an outcome, and this omission led to decades of disruption to an education service which, as I write, is now at a point of re-privatisation.

attlee mug

Attlee’s government did not go far enough to eradicate the class-ridden divisiveness caused the by privileges from private education and public schools. The state-funded education system introduced was a tripartite system of grammar, secondary modern and rarer technical schools. Selection at eleven would determine the course of a child’s life before even reaching puberty. Meanwhile, the rich and privileged continued to send their children to private and public schools, which opened the doors to an elitist society and via Oxbridge right into the heart of our political system, maintaining class divisions.

Had Attlee’s government made the brave decision to solve the problem of private and Church schools, and introduced a free universal education system for all, and eradicated private education, I believe it would have led to a fairer, and much more settled system which would have benefited all as the NHS has done.

But seventy years on, that dream is still alive. Jeremy Corbyn wants to see a National Education System. Corbyn wants to see investment in education system from cradle to grave. Education is not about training for a job, about ticking boxes and league tables. Education is about enriching our lives – and life long learning. It is fifty years since Harold Wilson’s inspirational Open University which opened doors for so many.

Sadly, Tory cuts and fees have taken the “Open” away and closed doors to this university without walls. Education should not end with a school certificate. There is so much knowledge and skills to share. Education benefits us all. Corbyn’s Education policy will put an end to tuition fees, and restore grants. Building on that, his plan for an NES and a life-long learning service will open up  education for everyone and enrich our lives and our society. And we can start this dream at the very beginning of an incoming parliament. This is exciting, positive politics and the spirit of ’45 is alive again.

Jeremy Corbyn writes  for Labour List

“The case for investing in early years education towards universal free childcare is overwhelming. A study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers a decade ago told us that in the long-term universal childcare would more than pay for itself – due to extra tax revenues from those in work and productivity gains. Politicians like to dress up in hard hats and hi-vis jackets on their pet construction projects, but lack the same enthusiasm for investment in social infrastructure.

In 2020 we should start by reversing the cuts to the adult skills budget and expand it into a lifelong learning service by adding 2% to corporation tax (still comfortably the lowest in the G7). This funding would be hypothecated to expand adult learning into a lifelong learning education resource. The extra tax revenues brought by a high skill, high productivity and high pay economy will fund further expansion.

A National Education Service will give working age people access throughout their lives to learn new skills or to re-train. It should also work with Jobcentre Plus to offer claimants opportunities to improve their skills, rather than face the carousel of workfare placements, sanctions and despair. We need a return to ambitious joined-up government.

While slashing college funding, George Osborne boasts of increasing apprenticeships. Yet too many are low quality, failing to give young people the transferable skills they need to get on.

It is clear that some employers are using apprenticeships and traineeships as a means of circumventing minimum wage legislation. This has to end. The minimum wage must be equalised across the board – with no poverty rates like the current £2.73 per hour apprenticeship rate.

Under a National Education Service, colleges should work in partnership with employers to mutually accredit apprenticeships and courses that offer high quality transferable skills. Councils and government agencies should also use public procurement contracts to guarantee good apprenticeships.

The best employers understand the business case for investing in staff – in increased employee productivity and staff retention – and that’s why it is right to ask business to pay slightly more in corporation tax to fund it, while still leaving UK corporation tax the lowest in the G7.

Government must play a strategic co-ordinating role in a modern economy. For too long the UK approach has been to stand back, ‘let the market decide’, then hope for the best. A National Education Service will be a lifelong learning service for a lifetime of opportunity.

How refreshing to hear positive , sensible policies from Labour. Jeremy Corbyn speaks, honestly, pragmatic, socially desirable policies. He challenges the Tory myth of austerity, and these are the policies people have been calling for. All Labour supporters should sign up and vote for Jeremy Corbyn, who is just what the Labour Party and the people of Britain need. He certainly has my vote, my best wishes, and hopes.

An Open Letter to my Comrades in the Labour Party

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An Open Letter to my Comrades in the Labour Party

Previously published here

CX4JE5 Rare 1940's vintage UK Labour Party enamel badge, featuring the Liberty logo which was used until 1983

I am so, so sad. What is happening to our beloved party? To which I have belonged for nearly 50 years, having joined the Young Socialists at the age of 15. Yes I have always been on the left of the party, but that’s fine – like any democratic organisation we are an amalgamation of those with differing points of views and sometimes the votes at conference may not agree with our individual wishes. But that is democracy – or what I have always believed. 

I voted for other candidates in the last few leadership elections, but supported those elected as I believe a loyal member should. I will do the same this time if my choice is not that of the majority of my comrades.

 However I honestly believe that Jeremy Corbyn will be the best leader for us and want him to win. I have followed his career for years and know him to be someone of sincere views. On a personal note he supported a long campaign with which I was involved with modesty and compassion. Just as I would expect.   

The party introduced the £3 supporters ‘ticket’ to allow non-members to join in the election process. And are now complaining about the possibility of ‘infilitration’. They are of course mentioning militant tendancy, communists and other ‘far left’ groups. My immediate fear on the announcement of this innovation was Conservatives and others joining to skew the votes. 

Ed Miliband’s election to the leadership ticked all the right boxes for the party hierarchy but he proved unelectable in this year’s General Election. So the claims that Jeremy Corbyn could prove unelectable to the electorate in five years time are, seriously, laughable.   

I do a bit of political blogging and normally would be out there giving it a go in support of Jeremy. However there are too many party members showing disloyalty and divisiveness to the country that it has taken me a time to even think about publishing this blog. I am not attacking those who oppose me and others who agree with me. I just ask them to moderate their voices a little.   
I am going to do that boring thing that old people do. I am going to repeat myself and suggest that anyone wavering about the state of the country and what is the difference between Jeremy and the other candidates read a book. Not great literature [I was an Eng Lit lecturer in an earlier incarnation] but a reminder of why the Labour Party and the Trade Unions came into being. And why we need Jeremy Corbyn as our leader: ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ by Robert Tressell. Read it, weep and then vote for Jeremy Corbyn. 

 Labour Party Member
and Unite Member 
Photo: The old Labour Party Badge. Lovely isn’t it?

Six Reasons why Jeremy Corbyn could win next General Election

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Six Reasons why Jeremy Corbyn could win the next General Election By James Meadway , previously published by Novara Media

Jeremy Corbyn, on current polling, is on course to win Labour’s leadership campaign. Conventional wisdom, as recycled by Britain’s political class, has put this down to a kind of post-election sulk by Labour’s members and supporters. Elect Corbyn now, they insist at increasing volume, and Labour can kiss goodbye to powerJeremy c192x108 for a generation or more.
The Westminster bubble was wrong about Corbyn’s candidacy, and it’s wrong about how the left might win the next general election. It’s the left in the party, not the right, that can show a path to Labour’s return to power. Supporting Corbyn is not just about principle or ‘self-indulgence’. It’s about strategy. Here’s how it could work:

1. It’s the stupid economy.

The chances of the UK avoiding a financial crisis and recession over the next few years diminish with every day that passes. The only real question is whether the house of cards collapses before, or after, the next general election. With austerity dragging down demand, it’s private sector borrowing that is increasingly keeping the show on the road. Borrowing by households, excluding mortgages, is now rising at the fastest level since 2007. The government’s own forecasters expect household debt to reach record levels before the end of the decade. Throw in the productivity slump, a yawning current account deficit, and rumblings from Greece to China and you’re looking at crash in waiting. If the opposition is organised when it happens, it can win.

2. Austerity will begin to hit those it previously left alone.

George Osborne set out a dangerous political manoeuvre in the summer budget. He is attempting to break the attachment of British society to its welfare state. He’s been very clear he’s seeking to create a new political consensus around a ‘low tax, low welfare’ economy. But until that consensus exists, the cuts he needs to make will hurt and will be seen to hurt. Projections from the budget suggest 13m people will lose an average of £260 a year. 3m households will lose £1k. These are serious cuts across broad swathes of the population. An opposition prepared to actually oppose those cuts would pick up support. The Blairites can’t do it.

3. Scotland.

The SNP won’t go away. 56 MPs won’t vanish overnight – not with the party currently polling at an extraordinary 56%. Either Labour cuts a deal with the SNP or, this side of independence, it will not return to power. Ed Miliband’s posturing against the SNP before this year’s election fooled precisely no one, and the Tories gleefully exploited the disingenuousness. Better to get over residual unionism and be honest about the situation. The anti-austerity, anti-Trident Labour left is in a far better position to talk to the anti-austerity, anti-Trident SNP than the pro-austerity, pro-Trident Labour right.

4. Where do the Tories go next?

There was no grand swing to the Conservatives in this election. Labour’s vote rose by more, despite the loss of Scotland. But the Tories were far sharper in exploiting the collapse of the Lib Dems. That’s not a trick that can be repeated twice. So where do they go next? Labour to Tory switchers at the last election were tiny in number, just 2% of voters, and, in a creaking economy with austerity grinding onwards, the Tories will seriously have their work cut out to win over many more. A better bet for them are Ukip supporters. But Ukip’s ambiguities – as the pro-Establishment anti-Establishment party – can, in practice, play left or right. ‘Red Ukip’ is a curious thing, but it exists. And the Tories have scarcely settled their own issues on Europe. A Labour party not obviously tied to the Establishment, and able to take a robust line against the neoliberal EU, could win these voters over. The right can’t do that.

5. Labour has a generation to win back.

Tony Blair’s greatest achievement was not the landslide of 1997. The proverbial donkey in a red rosette could at least have got a majority then, such was the depth of real hatred for the Conservatives. Blair’s real achievement was to lose Labour 4m votes in subsequent elections. He won fewer votes in 2001 and 2005 than Neil Kinnock lost the 1992 election with. It was a failure by disenchanted Labour supporters to vote that explains the gap between Labour’s opinion poll support and its actual vote this time round. Although more prevalent in Labour’s heartlands, those disenchanted former voters and fed-up supporters are spread throughout the country. It won’t be Liz Kendall or Andy Burnham that can win them back.

6. Left policies are popular.

On issue after issue after issue, the majority of voters are far to the left of the mainstream, from taxing the rich to renationalising the railways and utilities. Of course, it’s a long way from single policies being widely supported to an entire programme of the left being popular. There’s no straight line from one to the other. But it’s the left who can start to pull such a programme together – not burned-out Blairites. – None of this is guarantee. Could win is a very long way from will win. The uncertainties are enormous. There is the small matter of the leadership election itself. But we’re already seeing the limits of Blair-style ‘triangulation’ in Labour’s disarray over what ought to be the simple issue of opposing Conservative welfare cuts. There’s no reason to assume some election-winning magic attaches itself to the right and centre. Reheated Blairism, as now being offered by the Labour right, is an unpalatable mess. Its ‘realism’ looks increasingly unreal to anyone outside the whirligig of Westminster. And its failures have opened an extraordinary political opportunity for the left. It’s there for the taking.

This work by Novara Wire is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Published 7th July 2015

The Observer’s bankrupt when it comes to Labour

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The Observer is Bankrupt when it comes to Labour

Richard J Murphy from Tax Research UK

If you read the Observer today (19/7/15) you would think that the Tories will rule in the UK until at least 2030.

You would also believe that Labour has taken leave of its collected senses to even have Jeremy Corbyn as a member.

And that a triumvirate based around Liz Kendall, Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt is the only group in touch with reality.

It goes on, and on, and on, all based around Andrew Rawnsley’s jaded perspectives, an appeal to people to believe the findings of a small set of focus groups (Really? After all Labour’s experience of them?) that say some people might never return to the Labour fold after 2015 and a poverty of analysis that belittles the paper.

What do I mean? Take this example (and there are so many more in today’s paper it could provide enough material for a PhD thesis) from the editorial, where it is said that Labour must learn that:

Parties can help shape … questions, but they can’t tell voters what they should be and certainly can’t ignore the ones that they don’t like.

And yet only paragraphs later the same editorial notes:

Even as the Conservatives are masterfully shaping the territory on which the 2020 election battle will be fought, Labour is focused on an introspective conversation with its members, not a dialogue with the country.

When the paper cannot even be internally consistent on what is politically possible from the left and right – one of which can apparently define the whole agenda for discussion, and so opinion, and yet the other can’t – within the same editorial its inability to construct an argument becomes painfully clear.

The whole paper is riddled with that inability today. Take this wonder from Alistair Darling from today’s edition where he says:

We want people to get on, each generation building on the achievements of the last.

Quite right Alistair. And then he adds:

That needs a strong stable economy, but also needs investment. Borrowing to provide housing or a decent transport system is a good thing and we should say so.

I agree. And then he offers this next observation:

And yes, we need to get debt and borrowing down, as I have always said. I’m glad Osborne was able to meet my target.

Any you wonder why people aren’t voting Labour? Let me explain it as a non-party member who looks at politics but does not partake in it at a party level.

The problem is threefold. First what Alistair Darling says is incoherent economically unless you say a) that you are going to screw the electorate for large sums of money to pay for the investment or b) you’re going to do more of the much hated PFI that is shifting vast amounts of public funds to the private sector or c) you’re going to do what I call Green Infrastructure Quantitative Easing but which Jeremy Corbyn calls People’s QE (as far as I can tell they’re the same). But Alistair did none of those things. I don’t suppose he has a clue what that form of QE is so he looked stupid, and deservedly so. And people, even people who know little of economics, have rumbled that. Until Labour talks economically literately it has no hope, and it is not.

The second problem is also implicit in Darling’s comment: he ended up playing on Osborne’s territory. That’s because Labour has no story of its own. This myth of the middle ground is nonsense. It’s a fabrication. It’s a lie that there is such a thing. The middle ground is simply where people are in the prevailing narrative. It’s where that  narrative has taken them, but let’s not pretend that parties cannot move where that is or should not want to do so: the Observer editorial recognises implicitly – but without the candour or wit to admit it – that this is what the skill of the Tories in the last decade has been: they have been able to move the middle ground their way. But what they then argue is that Labour should not seek to change that fact, or where the middle ground is. What the Observer is saying is that Labour must play by Tory rules on the middle ground the Conservatives have created.

But why would they do that?  If sending people into poverty, deliberately; slashing funding for the NHS; cutting investment in education; sending undergraduates deeper into debt; holding wages at near poverty levels; offering tax cuts for the richest and no one else; threatening to end the BBC and going to war without bothering to tell anyone is the middle ground then the Observer has clearly lost the plot. And anyone saying that this is where Labour needs to be, or thereabouts, has also lost any scintilla of reasoning they might have once possessed. It is this loss of reason so that they are even unable to identify the true nature of the problem that they face that is the third problem the likes of those in the Observer who think that they are on the left face.

It is this lack of intellectual capacity to reason that impoverishes Darling, and it is the same problem that cripples the Observer: somewhere within it (I can’t be bothered to re-find the link) it is said that all parties die in the end and so, it is claimed Labour must die if the left is to go forward. But implicit in that statement is the glaringly obvious fact that so too will the Conservative Party and its current narrative die, and yet there is not in any one the many articles the Observer publishes today (with the single unifying theme of attacking Jeremy Corbyn) any hint of this possibility. What is astonishing is that when the Tory narrative on Europe is close to shredding itself and that people may reject the whole Tory edifice when they lose parts of the NHS, education, the BBC, or just the nation as Cameron shatters the Union which was supposed to be the basis of his party, the Observer seems quite unable to notice any such possibility, at all.

So let me offer explanation for what is happening. What the Observer is really saying today is that it thinks there is one hegemonic narrative in UK politics and that it thinks it is neoliberalism.

It is saying that any threat to that narrative, from wherever it comes, should be challenged. So Corbyn is unacceptable.

And it is saying that Labour must oppose the Conservatives from within that constraint of subscribing to neoliberalism when the whole basis of neoliberalism is the shrinking of the state, the increasing division of reward, the privatisation of gain and the outsourcing of risk, all of which should be antithetical to Labour as I understand it.

So let me tell the Observer a simple fact: opposition on that basis is not possible. If the middle ground is neoliberalism a policy called neoliberalism lite is not going to work: from the outset that is by definition both a failure and bound to fail.

Opposition now is to take control of the narrative. Opposition then, when neoliberalism has become so universal in apparent appeal (except, that is, in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and significant parts of the North), is about offering a different narrative. It has to be: neoliberalism is a totalitarian logic of exclusion. The Observer’s logic is not just appeasing that totalitarianism in that case, it is in the process supporting it. This is not a situation where ambiguity is possible. You’re either for or against neoliberalism: there is no possibility of sitting on the fence and the Observer has made clear today on which side it fits.

So what is the alternative narrative? Is it some bizarre logic, as all Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents would wish to suggest? Without wishing to be involved in party political debate – because, I stress, that is not my bag – I suggest not.

Instead it is  a narrative that says people are the foundation of wealth, whoever they work for.

That means this is a narrative that values people equally whether they work for the state or private sectors.

And it is a narrative that says let each do what it is best able to deliver.

But which also says that if markets are best able to deliver then they have to be based on certain rules, like transparency, accountability, paying taxes, the prevention of monopoly power and the promotion of enterprise and not rent seeking speculation, because in case the Observer has forgotten it, these are the qualities that make markets work when the concentrated power of neoliberalism is simply about reward extraction by a few from the effort and assets of the many, and is as far removed from real market theory as Soviet tractor factories were.

None of which then says that this alternative narrative is opposed to business: far from it, this is a more pro smaller business agenda than anything that the right has put forward for decades because of the right’s bias towards wealth, big business and globalisation, all of which are the antithesis of small business success.

And that narrative has to recognise that effort is and will be rewarded but that the right to enjoy that reward is dependent upon complying with the democratic wishes of the society of which a person is a member, including its expectation that redistribution to deliver greater equality is not just the right thing to do, but a basis for enhanced prosperity for all in the long run.

That narrative also says that the state must and will use the powers available to it to deliver these goals if it is to be responsible. So it will invest when it thinks fit, and create the money to do so (back to QE) when the market will not deliver the scale of economic activity that the country can sustain. Wouldn’t anything else be wholly irresponsible?

And it will regulate to correct market failure, whether by banks or in the environment.

And it will foster employment by reducing the taxes on labour and increasing them on unearned income.

And it will not waste resources paying housing benefits when it would be better off building houses.

And nor will it penalise the young and lay a lifetime burden of debt upon them when they are the basis of our future prosperity.

There is much more to the vision, of course.

But for heaven’s sake, if the Observer cannot see that it is only by talking about alternatives that Labour (or any other left of centre party) can put together the necessary coalition of interests to create change in this country then no wonder they back Labour leaders who might, like the last shadow chancellor, feel comfortable discussing VAT on replacement windows but ducked big issues like the tax gap.

Or to put it another way, if a debate is to take place, shall we make it about something more than the positioning of deckchairs whilst neoliberalism steams on?

– See more at: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2015/07/19/the-observers-bankrupt-when-it-comes-to-labour/#sthash.UH3VtZ9Q.dpuf