Uniting the Left

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All the evidence so far would point the fact that a working, credible alternative to the Neo-Liberalism promoted by Thatcher, Major, Major and Brown has not yet firmly taken root in the mind of the Electorate.

Ed Miliband has declared many times that New Labour is dead. He has also vocalised the idea of good businesses and bad businesses. Recent months have seen the largest public sector strikes over changes to the pension arrangement for a long time. The Occupy movement has been campaigning in financial centres across the world against the excesses of global finance and capitalism.

However, these strands have not come together, so the left has failed to produce a clear coherent  platform to challenge the Conservative-led Coalition.

Firstly, due to the nature of our electoral system (FPTP), a focus must be made of the Labour Party. The only way to form a Government is get around 40% of the vote across the nation. FPTP results in big tent parties, squeezing out smaller ones.

I would argue strongly that falling turnouts demonstrate that the traditional two-party state we have is dying. Fewer and fewer people identify with Labour or the Conservatives, as the class system that was in place for much of the twentieth century is dead.

We are a more diverse nation in every respect, and so we must change our electoral system to recognise this. I believe that proportional representation should be introduced.

If Labour wants to lead the fight for the left, it must promise PR in it’s first term of Government. Supporters of smaller parties could be encouraged to lend their vote in return for the introduction of PR. If Labour wants to act as the only voice of left, it will fail.

If Labour will not accept PR, and wants to retain the advantage they have under FPTP, then they are as doomed as the Conservatives in the long run. We will see lower and lower turnouts, as the two-party FPTP state nose-dives into terminal decline.

So far the Labour Leadership has been dismissive of the Occupy movement, and lukewarm to strikes. Based on How Britain Voted in 2010 by Ipsos Mori, around 6.5 m people under 35 did not vote, and neither did 8.6 m from the social classes of C2 and DE. To get the votes required to win an election, targeting these groups would be very productive. Labour must not just concentrate on the Blairite route of appealing to soft Conservatives and floating voters. The key is appealing  to non-voters, as it is these who are suffering the most under the Coalition, and will be more receptive to change. Why would they support a system that has done them no favours?

Secondly, the left needs clearer, bolder messages. To facilitate this I propose a working party of leaders from the left. This could be Labour, The Greens, Unions, possibly student groups too and other organisations. They should generate a broad set of principles of what an alternative to Neo-Liberalism should achieve. Each group involved could then use these principles to guide their individual policies. If a group signed up to these principles generates a new policy, it should ask if it is in the spirit of these principles. If it isn’t it should seriously consider not doing it.

This would not result in identical policies, but a similar direction of travel. This would be useful as such an activity would assist when PR is in operation. These principles should be well publicised.

The fight against Neo-Liberalism will be hard, as those keen to maintain it have the most resources. They will fight hard and dirty, as they  have a lot to lose.

The left needs to work closely and co-operatively to have the best chance of success.

For the sake of the 99%, the left must succeed.

How to handle a problem like David (Cameron).

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The possibility of another 5 year term of Osbornomics, with a Conservative majority is a disastrous prospect for the people of the UK.  However, the only political force capable of preventing that reality, the Labour Party, is currently failing to adequately convince the electorate. This is in spite of the high levels of unemployment, the failing economy and the grossly unfair cuts, which are falling disproportionately on the poorest, the disabled, women and young people. This article offers some suggestions to Ed Miliband as to how to counter the Tory PR machine aka David Cameron.

The press consensus is that Ed Mililband is ‘the wrong brother’.  The opinion polls say that a majority think that Ed Miliband is not a ‘natural leader’, whatever that means. And since Cameron’s play-acting in the EU Summit, the Opinion polls put Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck…. Or even the Tories ahead.

But this is no ‘run of the mill’ Conservative government.  Mrs Thatcher may have been a ‘milk snatcher’ but this Tory-LD Coalition is the sort of government that is able to ‘justify’ halving benefits for disabled children (1) …

What more needs to be written about the welfare state-wrecking policies of George Osborne, and this government, than that one piece of information?  It speaks for itself and surely, any opposition party, ought to be far ahead in the polls on this point alone?

In addition, the economic outlook is dire for the UK.  Tory-LD policies are not working.  Throughout the EU, it is becoming increasingly clear that austerity is ‘not fit for purpose’ in creating employment and growth. In the UK, 13 public service jobs have been lost for every private job created, and George Osborne’s Autumn Statement confirmed that increased unemployment, increases government borrowing.  It does not reduce it.

 

“There is a 100% chance of another 2008 crash.”

Jim Rogers, legendary investor.

“These shocks are going to keep on occurring. Thinking the problems of the Eurozone are going to go away is delusional.”

Nouriel Roubini, eminent economist

‘While the headlines focus on what it all means for the UK, the markets are not ignoring the fact that Europe’s latest summit has done nothing to deal with the region’s problems. Indeed, its just demonstrated quite how out of touch with reality Europe’s leaders are.’ 

So no action has been taken deal with the ‘new’ global banking crisis, and we continue to be fed the lie that both the UK and EU crisis is one of government over-spending.  There is currently, the greatest imaginable mismatch between the need for policies to address the draconian impact of global finance, and the ‘stuff’ which is discussed in the Westminster bubble.

Many independent financial commentators are scathing about our politicians. ‘Tyler Durden’ could equally as well have been writing about the UK by simply substituting ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ for ’Dancing with the Stars’:

…hopefully we can get millions of people to wake up and realize that “business as usual” will result in a national economic apocalypse.” Or, far more likely, 99% of the population can continue watching Dancing with the Stars, as what little wealth remains is terminally transferred to those who are paying attention right below everyone’s eyes.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/50-economic-numbers-about-us-are-almost-too-crazy-believe

The other strand, in the failure of the opposition, is the mainstream media’s reporting which (with notable exceptions) is for the most part sensational, superficial and ill-informed.  For example, a Tory MP being sacked for dressing up as a Nazi, takes precedence over all other news on Radio 5.  Respected journalist, Robert Fisk writes scathingly about his fellow journalists:

I have never read so much garbage, so much utter drivel, as I have about the world financial crisis.

But I will not hold my fire. It seems to me that the reporting of the collapse of capitalism has reached a new low which even the Middle East cannot surpass for sheer unadulterated obedience to the very institutions and Harvard “experts” who have helped to bring about the whole criminal disaster.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-bankers-are-the-dictators-of-the-west-6275084.html

 

A major problem for the Opposition, and I would argue for democracy, is the lack of mainstream media interest in what they have to say.  Essentially , the only guaranteed slot, for the Labour Party to be heard, is Parliamentary Question Time (PMQs). 

 

So what are the UK population offered from the only regular opportunity to observe the two party leaders?

He’d been holding back in recent weeks, but today Bad Cam returned. Bullying. Hectoring. Rude. Shouting. The “crimson tide” flashing up his face and turning him beetroot red from the outset of this boisterous PMQs. The Labour benches cheered and jeered at Cameron’s embarrassment. That only served to turn Bad Dave into Desperate Dave.

Mark Ferguson on David Cameron’s PMQ performance 26th Oct 2011

http://labourlist.org/2011/10/pmqs-verdict-say-hello-to-bad-dave-and-desperate-dave/

The mainstream media commentary simplistically reduces PMQs into some sort of ‘sporting fixture’ determining whether ‘Miliband or Cameron won’; the criteria seemingly being restricted the quality of the respective jokes, or which one loses their manly ‘cool’.

If I sound angry, it is because I am.  None of this is a laughing matter.

Small children, the vulnerable, the elderly, the environment, climate change, our very existence, are all threatened by the failure of politicians to regulate global capitalism, the financial oligarchs and the City of London.

If all of George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review cuts are implemented, projected spending on UK public services will be less than that in the US, by 2014/15 (2). Meanwhile the super rich and transnationals become richer, and richer, with their wealth safely tucked away in some Tax Haven.

Reuter’s Purlitzer prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston has written on (Richard Murphy’s) work for the Tax Justice Network on worldwide tax evasion. That work estimated a total loss to tax evasion of US$3.1 trillion world wide.

http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2011/12/16/tax-evasion-is-a-case-where-the-threat-of-prison-works/

In addition, UK companies’ cash flow has grown 40 per cent since the depths of the financial crisis at the end of 2008 (according to analysts at Shore Capital).

Richard Murphy offers two explanations.

First, recession is good for very big business: they’ve slashed costs and wages, and floated their profits offshore.

Second, they don’t want that to change so they argue for its continuation – hence their support for Osborne’s suicidal economic policies.

http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2011/12/16/yours-struggling-but-uk-companies-cash-has-gone-up-by-40-since-2008/

So what can the Labour Party do to get heard?

There are many things but changing the behaviour of the Parliamentary Labour Party at PMQs would be a good start.

It is noticeable how Ed Miliband has been at his most effective when he has felt genuine anger.  His retort to Cameron, that he would not ‘demonise the dinner ladies’ over the strikes was powerful.  His anger at News International’s phone hacking of the murdered schoolgirl’s mobile juxtaposed congruently against the Cameron choice of friends and intimates… Rebecca Wade, Coulson, Jeremy Clarkson and so on.

Ed Miliband should cut out the ‘jokes’.  We need serious politicians for serious times.

Ed should not join in, or try to compete, with Cameron/Osborne’s Bullingdon bullying and frivolity.  Nor should he pull faces in response to Cameron’s jibes.  A blank look of contempt is the only appropriate response.  The same should also go for the rest of the Shadow Cabinet and the Labour backbenchers.  However tempted, Ed Balls should resist the desire to demonstrate that the economy is flat-lining, with an accompanying triumphant grin. A stony, serious anger is required.  The PLP must model that these times are serious, and that these political decisions are hurting people.

Liam Carr agrees:

There is no point in trying to debate Bullingdon club style with Cameron, we have to rise above it.” … Imagine how Cameron would deal with Ed Miliband answering to his unpleasant ‘jokes’:

“Do the members opposite think that 1 million young people out of work is funny?”

Or

 “The PM seems more interested in my relationship with my brother than Britain’s relationship with our biggest export market”….

 

Of course, it would be even more effective if Ed Miiliband were currently in the position to sign up to all of Real Labour policies… But genuinely representing the plight of ordinary people’s lives, and continually exposing the state of the economy, would be a major step forward in reframing the casual jibes, and cutting through the contortions and lies of  Osborne, Cameron and the media.

(1)  http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com/2011/12/now-its-real-first-cancer-patients-now.html

http://www.family-action.org.uk/section.aspx?id=14225 

(2) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-923X.2011.02169.x/full