Emily Thornberry’s support for Labour Party Democracy

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Posted below is the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry’s letter to her constituents which paints a very different picture to that presented by former members of the shadow cabinet who took part in the staged walkout of the coup.  The most significant aspect is her disgust at the way that the party hierarchy have done their best to stop Jeremy – first from getting on the ballot, then by excluding 130k new members from voting and then by the £25 ‘voting tax’ for supporters.  It is so heartening to know that some MPs have a sense of what is democratic … and are prepared to stand up for what is morally ‘right’ not what is (apparently) politically expedient.

Emily is absolutely on the money with her plea:

‘I do not understand why anyone in the Labour party would want to turn their back on that membership, in the way that the party hierarchy have tried to do this summer.

Instead, it is time to unite as a party – the membership and the elected representatives alike – and together take our fight into the only contest that matters: getting this dreadful Tory government out of office, and punishing them for the mess into which they have plunged our country.

That is what we should have spent our summer doing – uniting, facing outwards, taking on the Tories, and energising the public to our cause – and that is again why I regret so much the chaos and distraction that this attempted coup against Jeremy has caused.’

Emily Thornberry’s full letter to her constituents:

What had begun as the necessary modernisation of the Labour party in 1994, showing how a belief in a dynamic market economy could be combined with the drive for social justice and the transformation of public services, had become distorted into an agenda where the test of every new policy from the leadership was how much it would antagonise the Labour party’s core membership.

Tuition fees, the attempt to marketise the NHS, the careless disregard of long cherished civil liberties and the drive to war in Iraq were being imposed by a leadership who convinced themselves that, if the members hated it, they were doing something right.

When I walked through the voting lobbies against the attempt to impose 90 days’ detention without charge in 2005, Tom Watson –then one of Tony Blair’s whips – growled at me that I was a ‘traitor’. But a traitor to who?

Not to the country, when this was a draconian measure designed to look tough on terrorism, but one that would undermine the cohesion of communities like ours, alienate people and actually undermine our security. My members knew this and I remember when Compass polled party members – at my instigation – it was clear this was the national view as well.

So who exactly was I betraying? Just a party hierarchy and a party leadership who were trying to shore up their relationship with the right-wing press by ‘taking on’ their members, and trying to out-flank the Tories on security.

When Jeremy stood for the leadership after the disaster of the 2015 election, the difference was palpable. Here finally was a candidate interested in listening to the party’s members, reflecting their views, and promising to represent them. As a result, hundreds of thousands more joined, including huge numbers who had left because of Iraq, tuition fees, and other issues.

Here we are now, less than a year after Jeremy’s overwhelming victory, and the party hierarchy – through decisions of the National Executive Committee – is attempting to overturn that result, quash Jeremy’s mandate, and put the party’s members back in their box. And they are doing so in the most naked way.

I was disgusted to see the attempts to try to stop Jeremy from getting on the ballot. And then, if that wasn’t bad enough, hundreds of thousands of fully paid-up Labour party members were excluded from taking part in the election, having been told the opposite when they joined. Third, your membership fees were spent on securing that decision through the courts. And then lastly, registered supporters, who had been told they could be involved in the Leadership election, were then told that they must increase their donation to £25 within two days to remain eligible for a vote.

Indeed, you should probably know that even to put on the social events we have held for local members in the last two months – occasions that have been really important to welcome in our new members – we have been forced to seek permission for each event from the party hierarchy.

In short, some people have done their level best to deny the party’s full membership a fair and equal vote in this contest, or even the chance to make their voices heard. Instead of welcoming the enthusiasm of our new members, instead of celebrating the strength of our mass membership, they have been behaving as if it is something to be afraid of.

As someone who spent nearly 30 years as a grass roots activist before becoming your MP, I cannot accept this.

But even more important, as someone who believes our party and our country are best served when our elected representatives and the party membership work together, I fundamentally disagree with this attempt to take us back to the years when our members were deliberately antagonised, alienated and ignored by the people who they helped to put in power.

Islington South and Finsbury Labour Party has a proud reputation for being one of the great campaigning local parties and our election results in the past 11 years have shown what can be done when the membership and its elected representatives work together with respect.

We now have the potential to replicate this success across the country, creating a national activist base that could be unlike anything else in modern British politics, taking our message into the street and onto the doorstep, and turning the activism of thousands into the support of millions.

I do not understand why anyone in the Labour party would want to turn their back on that membership, in the way that the party hierarchy have tried to do this summer.

Instead, it is time to unite as a party – the membership and the elected representatives alike – and together take our fight into the only contest that matters: getting this dreadful Tory government out of office, and punishing them for the mess into which they have plunged our country.

That is what we should have spent our summer doing – uniting, facing outwards, taking on the Tories, and energising the public to our cause – and that is again why I regret so much the chaos and distraction that this attempted coup against Jeremy has caused.

So my plea to all members, and one I will make to my fellow MPs, is this: whatever the outcome of this leadership election, we should stop the internal division, unite as a party, and take the fight to the Tories together.

And I would like my local party to know that I will remain totally loyal to the leader of our party, whoever he shall be.

In the meantime, you all know that I have a very full in-tray with constituency business, and with representing the party on Brexit, foreign affairs, and – together with Clive Lewis – our future defence policies.

I will be concentrating on this vital work in the run up to 24 September, rather than this unnecessary and divisive leadership contest. And when that is over, I hope we can all start focusing on those bigger issues on which Britain needs an effective, united opposition.

I know that not everyone will agree with the conclusions I have reached, but I am completely confident that in Islington South and Finsbury, we will continue to debate this and other issues in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.

Best wishes, and please as ever, let me know your views. Looking forward to seeing you on a doorstep with me soon!

Emily

From Cradle to Grave – Jeremy Corbyn’s N.E.S. will transform and rebuild Education in Britain

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

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. One thing was missing, and that was a National Education Service which is now planned by Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

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 Service

 

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, via academisation.

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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. Everyone benefits from an educated population. We share the technological advances, healthcare, scientific research, and can enjoy the Arts.

But that dream is still alive. Jeremy Corbyn wants to see a National Education Service

. 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.

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.

In July 2016, 100 Tory MPs call for return to grammar schools. Grammar schools select pupils, and are not open to all children. It is impossible to have selection without exclusion. The  politics of superiority – a selfish, divisive attitude of “I want something you can’t have” is not unknown to the Conservative Party. But perhaps they have short memories, because it was Tory voters themselves, those who could not afford private schooling which decried the divisive grammar schools.  Further development of the new comprehensive schools was due to disgruntled middle class conservative voters who could not get places for their children in what they perceived as their very own grammar schools, so resulting in the Tories losing power in 1964. This is something which Margaret Thatcher, while an advocate of the grammar schools, was well aware of. The Newsome report  entitled “Half our Future”, published in 1963, recognised the eleven-plus failure and a drive towards a more comprehensive system was subsequently planned.

NFER on grammars

Comprehensive education was intended to be more inclusive. Indeed it is. But where there is an education system where privileges are bought – fast track entrance to university, schools with small class sizes, it cannot be fully comprehensive. Evidence shows that the comprehensive system has not failed  yet the private system, which excludes those by wealth skews results.

Tuition fees are leaving a generation in debt, and as a result our society is wasting potential talent. The gap in university access between students from state and independent schools is widening. This is expected to widen further by the recent abolition of maintenance grants will hurt those most in need. John McDonnell  rightly said to students  protesting against hike in tuition fees

“Education is a gift from one generation to another, not a commodity to be bought and sold.

For generations now one generation has handed the baton onto the next, and it’s our job to ensure that the next generation has a better quality of life than the last.”

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.  The thirst for knowledge and skills does not stop and the school gates. Education is about life-long learning, and that is what Labour wants to see. We can start this dream at the very beginning of an incoming Labour government. 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, Tories  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.

“We will build a new National Education Service, open to all from throughout their lives. We will create universal public childcare to give all children a good start in life, allowing greater sharing of caring responsibilities and removing barriers to women participating in the labour market. We will bring about the progressive restoration of free education for all; and guarantee quality apprenticeships and adult skills training.”

jeremyforlabour.com

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.

A Tale of Two Summers and the Electable Jeremy Corbyn

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The Electable Jeremy CORBYN

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1. A TALE OF TWO SUMMERS

As a child I learned of honestly, fairness and justice, and I learned about socialism. These philosophies go hand-in-hand. But in my lifetime, The Labour Party I loved has become fearful of the truth, and has lost the trust of the electorate. For the second consecutive summer, we are facing a Labour leadership election, a protracted civil war in a party which no longer represents those it purports to exist for.

The summer of 2015 took the establishment by surprise as alongside carbon-copied neoliberals, someone talking honestly, among people, listening to them, ignited the disaffected with hope and optimism. Jeremy Corbyn, with  anti-austerity policies was elected leader of the Labour Party with a huge mandate  on 12th September 2015.

The summer of 2016 took many by surprise because the referendum on EU narrowly resulted in a “Leave” majority. Examination of those results clearly shows the EU was rejected by those who had nothing. If you have nothing to lose, why would you want to keep everything the same? While there were some on the Left, advocated a break from the  corporate stranglehold of EU, the Labour Party and leadership campaigned to remain in the EU, to make changes with other socialist groups to bring about change.

There were a number of reasons why the message was not heard.

The main culprit is the collective bias of the mainstream media. The leader of the opposition was given hardly any coverage (4%) , despite country wide meetings, while Nigel Farage, not an MP was shown repeatedly. Labour’s remain campaign  (after the effect of a shared platform at Scottish referendum), quite rightly did not share a platform with David Cameron despite Harriet Harman doing so. Corbyn campaigned extensively but the media did not show it.

The sad and tragic death of Jo Cox may not have resulted from the vile, divisive, and racist reports of the right wing press, but there was certainly a lack of responsibility, and a biased presentation can indeed incite anyone with extreme views or mental illness to behave in a certain way. It was unforgivable.

What this amounts to is a total lack of understanding of the feeling of many people in society, who feel abandoned, neglected, who feel despair, hopelessness, and in some cases hatred.

And in order to begin to repair our divided nation, and indeed world, we have to understand how this has come about. It results from the flawed economics of neoliberalism. It results from the erosion of democracy, which has become a sham.

In recent years, regardless of whichever party becomes the government, no elections have achieved the great change as  Labour did in 1945 because of the establishment’s stranglehold. There are immense riches for some and yet the state’s responsibility to its ordinary citizens has been eroded.

Solidarity, socialism, and neighbourliness,  are words from the past which we are told was some far-left extremism and  has no place in the future.  That fear of being destitute, of being alone and helpless is a direct result of neoliberalism.  Austerity, created by the IMF and described in the Zombie Economy was hatched seventy years ago in New Hampshire, has been pursued around the world ever since.

They have overseen the transfer of power from the State to the private institutions and corporations.

Ordinary people in the UK, as around the world know that austerity has failed,  yet increasingly they feel that their votes will achieve nothing. What do they say to politicians who ask for their votes on the doorstep?

“There is no point in voting; they’re all the same.”

“They’re all in it for themselves.”

“They are all liars!”

“They only want to know at election time.”

“I like Labour, but we can’t trust you with the Economy.

“Too many immigrants taking our jobs.”

“Foreigners are flooding into Britain”

“I’m not interested in Politics.”

That may be a fair assessment of the situation from their view but I am filled with despair. The Labour Party’s recent abstentions on the Welfare Bill resulted in it being carried. 47 Labour MPs did oppose the vote on Trident renewal. Please refer to this list.

  The vote to spend masses on Trident when finances and resources would be so much more wisely spent on jobs, houses, NHS and infrastructure, was supported by many Labour MPs who should be ashamed.  Why is this happening? Nothing will change until Austerity is challenged and the truth is out. There are people challenging the neoliberal consensus, and one of these is Jeremy Corbyn. He is immensely popular, and has support of 80% of CLPs.

Such is the fear of the establishment of real democracy and change that the press and majority of the PLP have bullied, orchestrated a coup and attempted to push out our democratically elected leader. The NEC and Iain McNicol has blocked democracy by cancelling political meetings, suspending CLPs and even encouraged a challenge to automatically putting the incumbent Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on the ballot paper, and agreeing to a date which was post nomination time and which could have led to the sole remaining challenger, Owen Smith being automatically made Labour leader.

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This in itself was questioned by the judge, and it has been ruled that Jeremy Corbyn should be the defendant, rather than Iain McNicol.

This is a real threat to democracy of the Labour Party, and of our parliament. It must be challenged.

2. 1983 Manifesto was too left-wing – a myth to be challenged

One claim from the right of the Labour Party is that a Corbyn-led party would be unelectable, because of “extreme” left-wing policies, and that was why Labour failed to gain power in 1983 under Michael Foot.

Labour’s 1983 Manifesto was not extremely Left Wing. Some examples include:

  •  In 1983 Labour promised to invest in homes, transport, new technologies and industry.
  • It promised to work for equality, for women – equal pay, maternity pay and assistance for child care
  • Planned for Investment in Education, and Provision for under-fives
  • It proposed to improve the environment, to tackle pollution and to conserve energy.
  • It planned initiatives to promote peace and development around the world, and to cancel Trident and not to co-operate with Cruise Missile deployment,
  • Labour would have expanded services for social care and to reverse Tory cuts in the maternity grant.
  • Begin a Strategy to Eliminate Low Pay.
  • Open immediate negotiations with our EEC partners, and introduce the necessary legislation, to prepare for Britain’s withdrawal from the EEC, to be completed well within the lifetime of the Labour government.
  • Rebuild British industry , and up these steps with a new National Investment Bank, new industrial powers, and a new Department for Economic and Industrial Planning.

These are immensely popular policies, and so are those of Jeremy Corbyn. Expanding on the details here show refreshing, positive policies describing a world I wished we could have seen.  It was not this manifesto that led to Labour’s defeat in 1983. They called it the greatest suicide note in political history. It looks more like a survival note for a thriving society. Neil Clark in the Guardian, describes how that defeat determined how the resistance to neoliberalism crumbled.

See Capitalism, Neoliberalism and Plutonomy and Neo-feudalism

“That moment in 1983 was the last great opportunity to derail the neoliberal bandwagon before it did lasting damage to the UK’s economic and social fabric. Labour’s emergency programme of action would have halted the de-industrialisation of Britain and removed the spectre of mass unemployment from the land. The re-imposition of exchange controls would have put a brake on the growing power of international finance; thanks to Thatcher’s deregulatory measures – money power was soon to rule the roost.”
The yawning wealth gap, already starting to develop in 1983, would have been reversed by Labour’s staunchly progressive tax policies.

3. Popularity Of Austerity policies and Thatcherism

In 1981 and 1982, the Tory cuts were very unpopular, and Michael Foot’s Labour Party was well ahead of the Tories in 1982. But Margaret Thatcher’s gamble to send a task force to the Falklands ignited a false patriotism where flag-waving citizens cheered the task force on its way. Thatcher’s gamble paid off. In times of austerity, it was like some kind of hysterical party.  It was a close thing, but without victory in the Falklands it is unlikely she would have remained in power.

‘The nation drank deep of an experience it had not enjoyed since 1945: a clear military triumph. The victory dragged Thatcher’s leadership from the brink of collapse. She won global celebrity, in both the United States and the Soviet Union, and 10 points were added to her poll rating. She was at last in the lead over Labour. The emergent Social Democrats never recovered. Thatcher wrapped herself in the flag, denouncing all sceptics and crudely boasting the renaissance of the British people as a world power against dictatorship.’

We have witnessed a greater gap between rich and poor, more deprivation and a disturbing rise in right-wing nationalism. The recent vote on Trident was unnecessary, but served to position Theresa May as Thatcher-like and reinforce the current divisions among the PLP. Austerity has failed, and it is opposition to austerity and neoliberalism which is behind the surge in political activity and a rise in Labour Party membership to over half a million people. Let us build, not divide. Let us oppose neoliberalism, together.

4. DIVIDED LABOUR in 1981 and 2016

It is a cliché, but true that as a Labour movement , we are strong when we have a common aim which is cohesive. United we stand, divided we fall. It was the split in Labour which cost us victory over Thatcher in 1983. The divisions in Labour at the moment  has cost us the lead we had just built over the Tories. It seems there are some in the PLP who do not share the aims of the Labour Party. As representatives of their  democratic socialist party, many Labour MPs are behaving in a destructive way again. They look to neoliberalism and not socialism.  There is no place for neoliberalism within the Labour Party. There is no room for disunity and disloyalty either. The membership is overwhelmingly supportive of Jeremy Corbyn and there is an incongruence between the membership and the PLP, which must be overcome in some way. As John Prescott, so succinctly put it recently in the Daily Mirror, The Labour Party is its own worst enemy scoring own goals like the England football team.

In 1983, the British electoral system was very much a two-party affair, and as we have seen recently, in a first-past-the-post electoral system, a divided opposition inevitably leads to defeat. In 1981, four former Labour cabinet ministers Bill Rogers, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Roy Jenkins had crossed the floor and formed the SDP. In 1983, ten days before the General Election, an SDP-Liberal Alliance was formed. Their agreement not to oppose seats resulted in Thatcher’s biggest ever electoral landslide. The lesson of the need for Party  unity, I hope was learned. In this betrayal, we have all paid dearly.

The Falklands war and the SDP-Alliance splitting the vote,  swung it for Mrs Thatcher not the Labour manifesto whatever the press and Blairites say. I remember it as clear as it was day, what a shock it was. The press was wicked. That is what started fear of the truth.

As we know the victors write the history.  The massive privatisation policies of the Thatcher years, which continued under Blairism, is still continuing today, though we have little left to sell off, would have been averted. Despite claims, there is evidence that Corbyn’s challenger this summer, Owen Smith, believes in neoliberalism, and many have observed that  “he is more Blairite than Blair”.

What resulted from these divisions was neoliberalism for 30 years , a parasitic, out-of-control capitalism which  grew exponentially. Manufacturing declined further, unemployment soared, employment rights eroded, and what we have been left with is a growing inequality where fear of being trampled on has led to social divisions and isolationism. Divisions in the Labour Movement today will not bring people together. Many in the PLP have behaved irresponsibly, undemocratically, and unprofessionally, and should unite behind the leader and membership to fight the Tories. Others have been loyal and present the foundation of  the New politics. Jeremy Corbyn wishes to see a reunited party fighting injustice, together. Let’s do that.

5. DEMOCRACY, TRUTH and electability

Listen to Jeremy Corbyn, and  you will hear he talks sensible, pragmatic, socially desirable policies which are supported by the electorate. His approach is courageous and honest, and that is why is was elected in 2015 as Labour leader, and why it is likely that he will be elected again in 2016, and why he is very likely to be elected as Prime Minister.  After the EU referendum, and prior to the coup, under Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party was edging ahead of the Tories in the polls. A cynical, and orchestrated attempted coup is an attempt to hold back democracy as people sense a once -in-a lifetime opportunity to make a difference to their own lives by political action.

The fable of the Emperor’s new clothes is well-known. Everyone could see the emperor was naked , but too fearful to challenge so they admired his new clothes. Everyone knows that the very, very rich, are the real scroungers  – representing a hidden welfare state while millions depend on food banks in this country alone. If everyone knows this, then why is our Labour Party still supporting Tory cuts and austerity? It is time to call the Emperor’s bluff.

Truth is always the way. Remember the lines of Tony Benn? “Say what you mean and mean what you say!” Wise words. Jeremy speaks honestly. He speaks the truth. He has integrity, a quality rarely seen among politicians, but one which the electorate respects. He has been proven correct many times, and has remained always true to his principles.

But  Jeremy Corbyn has not attempted undermining coups and exhibited bullying behaviour as we have seen this summer. He is popular, principled, and he is very electable. He believes in socialism, and in democracy.  He welcomes a reunited party. We aim for government and to change politics.

Jeremy Corbyn has my vote, yet again, and very my best wishes and hopes.

Is Momentum a mob? No – this is what democracy looks like

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