Len McCluskey: Labour Right must stop scheming and start fighting the Tories

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Len’s speech lasts 25 minutes then a Q&A

Len McCluskey | Jeremy Corbyn: Blast From The Past Or Leader Of Tomorrow? | Oxford Union

Published on Feb 25, 2016

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In his address to the Oxford Union tonight (20:00 hours, Tuesday 9 February), McCluskey will say that last summer’s Labour leadership election saw an exhausted New Labour collide with rising public discontent about the inability of business-as-usual politics to tackle growing inequality.  Against this backdrop, an electrifying campaign based on the promise of real political change propelled Jeremy Corbyn to Labour leader.

McCluskey, the first modern day trade union leader to address the Oxford Union, speaking on the subject Jeremy Corbyn: Blast from the past or leader of tomorrow? will say:

“Some have sought to excuse their disloyalty to Corbyn by pointing to his own rebellious past on the backbenches. But who can seriously argue that his votes in parliament against the Iraq war, identity cards or university tuition fees now diminish his ability to lead the Labour party today? On all these issues he was not only right, I believe, he was giving voice to the views of most Labour supporters.

“I’m not saying that any Labour MP should have to abandon his or her own views, or cease to articulate them within the party’s democratic structures. But I am saying that this continual war of attrition is achieving nothing beyond taking the pressure off the government.

“So my clear message to the plotters is – stop the sniping, stop the scheming, get behind Jeremy Corbyn and start taking the fight to the Tories.”

The leader of the 1.4 million-strong union will remind those undermining Jeremy Corbyn that they have failed to grasp why their brand of politics was roundly rejected by the Labour electorate – and dismiss the term ‘moderate’ as  wholly inappropriate for MPs advancing further foreign wars or versions of austerity:

“These MPs, who refuse to accept the overwhelming mandate Jeremy Corbyn got from Labour’s membership, are generously described as the “moderates” in the party.  It’s an abuse of language – there is nothing “moderate” about voting to bomb Syria or agreeing more public spending cuts, anything more than it’s “extreme” to vote for peace or for an end to eye-watering austerity.

“Such labelling simply obstructs the debate we need to have which is what went wrong with New Labour, what lessons can we learn, and how can we craft an appealing electoral pitch for the reality of 2020, not 1997?

“Their analysis of Labour’s defeat in 2015 was unconvincing, their proposals stale, minimalist and uninspiring – and for the most part they have still not shaped up after Corbyn’s victory. Until they can do that, they are a plot without a programme; a cabal without a critique.

“Labour cannot simply go back to where  it left off in 1997, 2007 or 2010.  Jeremy Corbyn’s message, his authenticity, his radical challenge to the status quo is part of an international movement against business-as-usual politics.”

McCluskey will further say that that the efforts of some in the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) to present the May elections as a referendum on the leader should be thoroughly dismissed:

“This is a sensitive issue and I am not a supporter of going  back to mandatory re-selection or other changes designed to intimidate or undermine Labour MPs. But I also believe that we need to issue a clear warning to those who are advocating the PLP being used as a lever to force Jeremy Corbyn out.

“The bizarre plans outlined by Joe Haines and pollster Peter Kellner, the call to arms by Damian McBride in his Times article and the ludicrous 99 days’ notice given by Michael Dugher to the arch-Tory Mail on Sunday – all have to be dismissed with distain by any real Labour supporter.

“If the Labour MPs want something constructive to do, then start working out policies and ideas that might help attract voters back to Labour. The leadership election revealed just how much the New Labour faction had run out of political impetus.  They offered no answers to the big questions of inequality, economic management, and 21st century social justice. There were certainly no big ideas from what were dubbed the “mainstream candidates” during the last leadership election.”

Turning to the need for an alternative to austerity, McCluskey will advance that Corbyn represents the best chance the UK has to reverse Conservative policies that have rendered this the most unequal of the major western nations:

“The global political and economic problems are so stark that they can no longer be ignored. Politicians who are willing to talk frankly about them will be listened to.  Under Jeremy now, we have a clear message: one that rejects austerity economics and promises investment and growth instead.

“Fairness, tackling corporate greed, tax avoidance and tax evasion, and holding power and wealth to account – all popular proposals which are resonating on both sides of the Atlantic.

“What Jeremy Corbyn offers – like Bernie Sanders in the US – is a calling out of corporate corruption, a rejection of the austerity that has made the UK the most unequal economy in the G8 and the promise that politics and politicians can and will put things right for ordinary working people.”

– See more at: http://www.unitetheunion.org/news/len-mccluskey-to-labour-plotters-stop-the-scheming-back-corbyn-and-take-the-fight-to-the-tories/#sthash.xTOVqWw1.dpuf

The other reasons why Labour lost in 2015

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For the most part, Margaret Beckett has managed to avoid the firing line for her 35 page report as to why Labour lost the 2015 GE.  Essentially, the report (which can be read here) does not fit easily into the Labour Right’s or the media’s frame of reference… vague or bland was the best they could come up with.  The press tried to whip up some excitement about ‘the suppression of a secret report’ about focus group findings but the task of blaming Jeremy Corbyn for Labour’s defeat in 2015 eventually proved too convoluted.  However, Jamie Reed MP did his best in a valiant effort for Progress:

Any Labour leader who refuses to listen to the country and who prizes the views of Labour members above Labour voters and former Labour voters will likely find that although they may secure the Labour crown, they will lose the Labour kingdom.’

In other words, the lesson from 2015 is that ‘the LP has the wrong membership’.. which reminds me of an old joke about the wrong electorate (but repetition of the word ‘Labour’ 6x in one sentence must be worth a mention).

 

Coming from the Left, I thought that the Beckett report was fair enough but that there were plenty of things left unsaid, that might have been usefully included.

But first, let’s be absolutely clear, the Tories won a majority because the Liberal Democrats imploded (-15.2%).  

Given that in most LD held seats, the Conservatives were in second place, it was unsurprisingly that they took LD constituencies.  Conservatives replaced 27 LD MPs, and now represent virtually the whole of Devon and Cornwall, coast to coast.  Those constituencies alone provided the Tory majority.

The unasked question is ‘Why were Labour in third place (gaining only a few thousand votes) in constituencies which have high levels of poverty, high unemployment, high self-employment, high housing costs, inadequate transport/infrastructure and a historical lack of investment?’

That blame cannot be laid on the 2015 campaign.  The fact is that New Labour governments never focused on addressing the problems of rural Britain… and there certainly are big problems in rural areas, all across the UK.  Although, to be fair, Huw Irranca-Davies MP did try his best to highlight them at the Labour Party Conference 2014.

So Scotland … what a tragedy for a few great Labour MPs, like Katy Clark and others, but the truth is that many, if not most, Scottish Labour-held seats were profoundly neglected by their Blairite MPs.  Their constituents really were ‘taken for granted’.  As Ben Margulies puts it, ‘the SNP won by defeating the “rotten structures of Scottish Labour”

Again, this cannot fairly be laid at Ed Miliband’s feet.

Ian Williams in Tribune describes the birth of New Labour:

‘Clinton set the model for New Labour – ostentatiously disavowing calumniated “special interest groups”, while pandering to the right…..  Unlike Clinton, the Blair administration did a lot of good work – but party bosses did not want anyone boasting about it, in case it alienated the financiers whom they hoped would replace the unions as bankrollers for the party.

In both cases, the plan was to hollow out the popular base of the parties, denying members effective input on policy or candidates, to reduce it to a PO box for corporate donations. As we saw in the Labour Party, it became a self-perpetuating career escalator for machine politicians that eventually ruthlessly weeded out any signs of dissent and any ties with the unions apart from topping up the collection box.

And nowhere was this model more surely adopted than by Scottish New Labour MPs.

Yes, the tipping point in Scotland was the referendum … and it was Ed Miliband’s fault for supporting the idea …. But who in their right minds thought it was a good idea for Labour to join forces with the Tories in the No campaign!!?

The idea is surely repugnant to any left-winger but yet again the transatlantacist right of the LP were seduced by US fantasy politics which promotes ‘bipartisanship’ as a high ideal to which they should aspire. Perhaps, if they had actually been in touch with their membership, they might have realised sooner that it wasn’t an aspiration shared by their fellow Scots who saw it as further evidence of ‘Red Tories’… and the dissipating Labour vote (ignored from 2007 onward) finally rotted away.

Anyway, the collapse of the LD vote and the loss of 40 Scottish MPs might have been mitigated, had Labour not made another fatal mistake.

What on earth possessed them to oppose the EU Referendum?

Was this ‘Hell yeah’ politics, toughing it out, holding the line?  Even pro-EU voters were invited to feel patronized.  Talk about handing a majority to the Tories.

ComRes opinion polling (post-election) found that 17% of Conservative and LD voters, and 33% of Ukip voters would have considered voting Labour, if Labour had been in support of a referendum on the EU.  In terms of MPs, that alone would have deprived the Tories of their majority.  ComRes estimated that Labour would have gained 8 seats leaving the Conservatives with 323, 3 short of a majority.

The amazing thing is that in spite of losing 40 Scottish MPs, and 27 LD seats going straight to the Tories, Labour still increased its vote in England and Wales by 1.5m in 2015 whereas the Tories only gained 500k.  But unfortunately, Labour largely built up its vote in unwinnable and safe seats, and although, there were 22 gains, the loss of 48 meant that Labour ended up with only 232 MPs.

In fact, the British Election Study team found that

‘Miliband was seen as having a more successful campaign than Cameron, perhaps against low expectations. This rating of who ‘performed best in the campaign’ switched in Cameron’s favour shortly before the election’

 

It also seems that the Ed Miliband team made the false assumption that the Tories would lose votes to Ukip, and disillusioned LDs would switch to Labour.  In the event, Labour probably only gained about 8% of the 2010 LD vote, former LDs being more than prepared to vote Conservative.  (Amazingly a lot of LD votes must have gone to Ukip – only half of Ukip’s 3.8m votes seem to have been taken from former Con or Lab voters )

The final cutting irony was that the collapse of the LD vote meant that the Tories gained a further 7 MPs because Labour supporters (and others) withdrew their tactical votes for the LD MP.  For example in Lewes constituency which was considered to be a safe LD seat, Norman Baker MP lost 7925 votes which split fourways between Ukip, Labour, Greens and Conservatives.  The new Tory MP was elected with only 805 votes above the 2010 losing result.

In the final analysis, Mark Doel of Sheffield sums it up…it was the UK electoral system that won it for the Tories. Not since universal suffrage has any party with less than 37% of the popular vote gained an absolute majority in the UK parliament. In fact, the swing to Labour (1.5%) was almost twice that to the Conservatives (0.8%) ….

Talk of David Cameron “sweeping to victory” adds wind to the sails of a government that acts as though it has a massive mandate when, by any account, a 12-seat majority is tiny, especially as it is built on the fluke distribution of an historically small proportion of votes. We must stop allowing the Tories to present this result as “a convincing victory”.

Charles Cronin of London adds:

‘…Lynton Crosby’s seeming effortless success in promoting the Tory party’s domination of the media could only have succeeded with the editorial support of the media. The BBC, as it must, covered and followed the press agenda. Don’t give too much praise to the creator of the message: it was the messengers that swung it.’

 

However, I cannot finish without pin-pointing the role of the Blairite wing of the Labour Party, in Ed Miliband’s failure to win the 2015 GE.  This is of overwhelming significance for the electability of Jeremy Corbyn in 2020.

Professor Eunice Goes‘ assessment of the 2015 campaign was that:

Ed Miliband was a flawed leader but the responsibility for the Labour’s colossal defeat on May 7 does not rest solely on his shoulders. Party divisions, plots, constant media attacks paralysed the party, in particular its policy development process. When the electoral manifesto was finally approved last spring the proposals that came out were confusing, unconvincing and uninspiring as Miliband tried to cater to all factions and ended up pleasing none….

And writing before his election as leader, her contention was that Jeremy Corbyn will not be allowed to lead the LP:

‘.. he will be de facto prevented from leading the Labour Party. The weekly duels in the House Commons with the Prime Minister David Cameron will be the least of Corbyn’s worries. He will be torn apart by his parliamentary party and the media. He will not be able to develop a single policy proposal, as he will be spending most of his time and energy explaining and justifying every single word he uttered during his long parliamentary career about Europe, Trident, coal mines, people’s quantitative easing or Israeli oranges. In other words, his leadership will collapse under pressure from opposition and resistance from all fronts.

But when this will happen the right of the party will have few reasons to rejoice as there is no greater electoral turn-off than to see – as we’ve witnessed in the past weeks – the spectacle of Labour apparatchiks treating the party’s membership and their democratic choices with such contempt.’

 

The experience of the last 4 months bears ample witness to Eunice Goes’ prediction… and yet, there is still room for hope.  I am not alone in feeling reassured that the Corbyn/ McDonnell team is much more experienced and streetwise, than Ed Miliband’s.  In addition, the membership have been exposed to the Labour Establishment’s contempt for democracy.

Let’s hope that the ‘We had to destroy the village in order to save it’ mentality from the Labour Right eventually fades away, even if it is only out of self-interest.

 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/295975145 /Learning-the-Lessons-from-Defeat-Taskforce-Report

http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2016/01/23/all-my-sons/

http://www.huwirranca-davies.org.uk/what-can-labour-do-to-win-the-rural-vote/

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/53094-2/

http://www.tribunemagazine.org/2016/01/letter-from-america-ian-williams-3/

http://www.britishelectionstudy.com/bes-impact/learning-the-right-lessons-from-labours-2015-defeat/#.VqzyKuk27oA

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/24/lynton-crosbys-role-in-the-tory-election-victory

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/even-if-he-wins-jeremy-corbyn-will-never-be-able-to-lead-the-labour-party/

https://think-left.org/2015/08/30/what-the-labour-establishment-didnt-really-want-us-to-know/

It’s you, Conservative government. Please stop.

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It’s you, Conservative government.  Please stop.

By julijuxtaposed – first posted 7.10.15

Please, Conservative Government, stop putting Britain’s people down.  It is fatuous, unpatriotic and downright rude.  You are our government; our leaders and representatives.  You are privileged to hold the highest offices of public service.  Why do you disrespect us so easily?  Don’t you like us?  Are we embarrassing you?  Why do you keep speaking at us and about us as though we were the ones who are letting you down?

Stop selectively comparing us to other countries and other people to bully us and mask your inadequacies.  This inferiority complex is yours.  It is insulting and becoming tiresome to hear you carping on with your political envy.  If their peoples work longer, earn less and have fewer rights, then that is not a competition I wish to enter.  In fact, I would prefer that you openly disapproved of such economies.  But stop, too, this flippantly pitting of our regions, counties and cities against each other.  Stop expediently pointing generalised and judgemental fingers at people.  And, please, stop expecting us to be grateful for your mean-spirited crumbs.  It is our bread that you are eating.

And stop peddling paranoia to the xenophobes and stop perpetuating scarcity myths over resources that you are squandering.  We do not lack the means but that you lack the political will.  We do not lack compassion but you lack integrity.   We do not lack aspiration; we do not lack gumption and we do not lack self-respect but that you would strip us of dignity and decent opportunity.  We do not lack social cohesion but that you keep fostering fear, division and discontent.

Who is in charge of our country’s finances?  Who is formulating our country’s policies?  Who is devising our country’s laws?  YOU.  Who has been in charge for the last five years?  YOU.  Who, in that time, didn’t build enough housing; didn’t train sufficient doctors, nurses, teachers…?  Who has denigrated and undermined public service?  YOU.  Who has introduced welfare reforms without first creating an economy in which this is justifiable?  YOU.  Who perpetuates a socio-economic system that requires the exploitation of your own citizens?  YOU.  Who makes blanket policies based on simplistic and insulting stereotypes?  YOU.  Who is blithely building on and recreating the same conditions that got us into such a fix in the first place?  YOU.  Who has bent over backwards to accommodate the hyperbole of bigots and Chicken Littles?  YOU.  Who governs by dubious moral whim?  YOU.  Who gambols greedily around on the world stage like an oversized and untrained puppy, begging to join in, no matter the recklessness and disingenuousness of the cause?  YOU.

Who is ignorantly and wickedly cutting away at the very heart and soul of Britain?  YOU.

Who is the biggest threat to the security of our isles, our economy and our families?  YOU.

YOU.  YOU.  YOU.

You are the Government.  You are responsible for the tone, content and quality of your narrative and you are responsible for the consequences of your governance.  What we really lack is the practical wisdom, maturity and the competent service of an honourable leadership.  Change your attitude and behaviour.  Stop.  Turn around or get out of our way.

Is Westminster now ready for the Jeremy Corbyn Effect?

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Is Westminster ready for the Jeremy Corbyn Effect?

one for all

The Jeremy Corbyn effect is happening all around the country. This candidate  for the Labour Leadership is being welcomed around the country. MPs do not seem to be in touch with the ordinary people. Why has it been so difficult for anyone challenging the austerity, neoliberal agenda which Thatcher and Reagan initiated, and which has been inflicted on people ever since to achieve a nomination to lead the Labour Party? It is not as if the nation has no appetite for the Jeremy Corbyn Effect.

Our parliament is not a career option.  MPs are elected to serve the people in the interests of the people, and that seems to have been forgotten. Dennis Skinner knows this, and it is because he attends parliament every day, works tirelessly for the working class that he is respected and admired by people of all political persuasions.

Recently elected new Labour MPs are now questioning the status quo. Richard Burgon, Clive Lewis and many other new MPs oppose austerity. Jess Phillips’ maiden speech for women’s equality was passionate and spoke for many ordinary women. Her claim that Nicky Morgan’s lack of support is a  “disgrace” was welcomed as the privileged Morgan went through the “No” lobby. SNP’s Mhairi Black’s maiden speech went viral, a 20 year old woman speaking confidently and challenging the Establishment.

What is left-wing? The term is used by the press to scare people into believing a horror scenario, that Britain is being transformed into some kind of totalitarian state. What is the truth about this current government if it is not extreme?

Let us be clear; Jeremy Corbyn’s politics are not extreme. He is a democratic socialist, with an increasing majority and has represented his constituents in North Islington since 1983 – thirty two years of electability. He claims the lowest expenses of any other politician. He is not in politics for a career, it is because he believes in equality, fairness and justice. He stresses that it is not about one person – but about building a team, working together with people in parliament and around the country, listening to their problems and their needs, and finding a way to help one another.

But of course, the Tory press will say he is a communist extremist. They will cite the 80s socialist Michael Foot, who in 1982 was well placed for election in 1983, and would have been but for the Falklands war and the SDP/Liberal Alliance hatched 10 days before an election, as discussed in “Opening Pandora’s Box“. Take time to read that excellent manifesto, and consider what the world would have been like had Thatcher not been re-elected, leading to mass privatisation, unemployment and manufacturing decline.

In fact, there is a great similarity with the Labour’s leader in 1945, Attlee, whose government achieved  a great deal for working people, and hope for many. The opportunities for those born in the 50s and 60s were an NHS, comprehensive schools, full employment and university grants. Other generations deserve those same chances in life, but the Tory government is destroying hope.

To redress the imbalance  between Labour grassroots, and the Westminster bubble of MPs, we need to:

  • Overcome the fear of exposing the truth of the destructive and flawed neoliberal politics

  • Open up the Labour Party democracy to real discussions with ordinary people

  • Stop lobbying of governments by rich global companies and their hold on them by treaties such as TTIP

  • Expose the myth of Labour overspending – address the truth that greedy, privatised   unregulated banks and a sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US led to a tsunami of economic problems all around the world.

  • Make economy work for people, money is just a tool for distribution of assets. Unfortunately, privatised banks have been creating  virtual money at will – the forever-in-debt scenario where ordinary people can never escape from, because the very nature of such an economy is to keep power with the rich.

  • Address Tax Avoidance

  • Democratise the money system, and ensure  Modern Monetary Theory (MMT)  is adopted which can be controlled to invest in people, building homes, schools, hospitals, and investing in green, and technological industry.

  • Bring back full employment for everyone who can work.

  • Ensure we retain a safety net of security  for all of us, when crisis hits our lives , whether in health, or old age, not private insurance companies who gamble with our lives. Let’s call it social security or protection, not benefits, because that is what welfare was intended for, for all of us.

If we can overcome the fear, open up politics and parliament for the millions who have not voted, then, I believe that Westminster is ready for the Jeremy Corbyn Effect. He is just the beginning. For Team Labour it is a rebirth of a Labour movement, and in that we should rejoice. There is no right, no left – our watchword is Unity, and Forward.