GRASSROOTS: In defence of the private sector

19/02/2018, 10:44:07 PM

by John Wall

According to the left’s rhetoric those in the public sector wear their underwear outside, eat three Shredded Wheat and sport a halo. This is a slur on all those – including many Labour voters – in the private sector who, presumably, have horns, wear sackcloth and carry a bell crying “Unclean!, Unclean!”

Will someone being paid the national living wage to clean a floor do it better if they’re in the public sector?

Almost five times as many work in the private than the public sector and as the latter is overwhelmingly a cost centre, it’s largely funded by taxing the former.

Everything in my home is produced by the private sector – and I have no complaints. Legislation has removed toxic materials and made the sofa non-flammable. Should I eat out, the kitchen will have been inspected and health and safety means that everyone should have a decent working environment.

Many know the public sector through the seminal documentaries “Yes Minister” and “Yes Prime Minister” while some remember the earlier radio series “The Men from the Ministry” (1962-77).

Less well known now is 1978’s “Your Disobedient Servant” and its 1981 sequel “Waste Away” by Leslie Chapman (1919-2013) who was a regional director in the, then, Ministry of Public Buildings and Works. “Yes Minister” drew on this, particularly in “A Question of Loyalty”.

The consumer affairs programme “That’s Life!” (1973-94) popularised the term “Jobsworth” – primarily in the public sector.

These may be historic but the public sector still gets things wrong; Mid Staffs and Rotherham are but two recent examples.

Any high street changes over time, if Tesco failed there are Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.

Much of the public sector has to exist. A child born now will need a school place until the 2030s, and there will always be the vulnerable to support. Having been in local government, founded in the 19th century, it’s clear that it will be around, in some form, in the 22nd century.

As a (very junior) civil servant, dealing extensively with the private sector and privatised by Blair, and a borough and county councillor I’ve been able to compare.

Some find public sector work interesting and stimulating but others just have a mortgage to pay and mouths to feed. Skills acquired at the taxpayer’s expense can be exploited in the private sector, the cheapest way to learn to fly is in the RAF.

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UNCUT: Turning on Labour councils, not Tory ones: the next step in the Momentum plan

15/02/2018, 10:40:36 PM

by Rob Marchant

If the shenanigans which have led to widespread resignations and deselections in Labour-run Haringey council were not enough, for the hard left, this seems to be just the beginning.

Of course, the Tories must be delighted to see the spectacle of Labour eating itself, rather than them.

Enter Sir Robin Wales, leader of Newham council and whose tenure must, under any reasonable analysis, be seen as a pretty much runaway success. Four consecutive terms in office means you must have done something right with your local electorate. Indeed, Newham under Wales is exactly the kind of council that Labour should be promoting as a beacon to others across the country.

However, the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is not one which seems to have ever occurred to the doyennes of Momentum.

After weeks of pressure to force Wales’ reselection in an open contest, they finally got their way and there will now be a selection process which may or may not result in his continuing as Labour’s candidate in May. Unsurprisingly, Corbynites were quick to point out that BAME and women were under-represented in directly-elected mayors (subtext: we don’t care how good you are, Robin, you’re a white bloke). This is a particularly idiotic comment when one considers that there are only a handful of such mayors in the country anyway.

The “canary in the coalmine” at national level of all this plotting was, of course, the Canary a couple of weeks back: the hard-left’s favourite conspiracy site decided that it was bored attacking the Tories and decided that laying into a successful Labour council was much more fun. “Labour council lurching from crisis to crisis” and “rotten borough” screamed the headline of the Wales/Newham hatchet job. (Special mention should go, by the way, to the wonderfully theatrical audio propaganda which accompanies the piece: with actors, the Canary has cleverly mocked up a “Radio 4” style news clip to sound “official”, with the difference that, of course, Radio 4 does generally objective and responsible journalism, rather than simply making things up.)

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UNCUT: In praise of Ann Black — The mythology of the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance

14/02/2018, 09:47:35 AM

by Andy Howell

The battle for Labour’s soul has now moved firmly into the arena of Labour’s National Executive Committee. Not content with winning all of three of the new NEC constituency seats, Momentum’s Leadership have not their sights on un-seating Ann Black — a founding member of the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance — in the forthcoming NEC elections. Momentum’s actions under the leadership of Jon Lansman seem to be not only unnecessarily aggressive but designed to heighten the current state of factionalism within the Party. If there has been anyone, over the last twenty years, who has championed the role of the ordinary Party member it is Ann Black. Throughout her twenty years Ann has tried to work on a non tribal basis and Labour’s members have much to be grateful for.

Today, many members of Labour’s NEC produce their own regular reports of meetings but Ann was the first to do this. Ann set a new standard in openness and transparency and I doubt if she had not maintained her reporting that others would have followed, not least as Labour’s Hard Left has never been that keen on openness and transparency themselves. It is easy to overlook the fact that when Ann first started writing these reports they were very controversial. Labour’s leadership really didn’t like them at all; proper reporting and open minutes are not part of Labour’s NEC tradition.

Back in the late 90’s the Party’s initial distrust of Ann came from the simple fact that she was a founder member of the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance. Back then alliance was truly a centre left construction. Ann campaigned (and then worked) very much to the agenda of the group who she represented on the slate, Labour Reform, a centre left alliance of members who came together in opposition to much of Tony Blair’s Party in Power process. Labour Reform championed the greater involvement of ordinary members in Party affairs most notably through the adoption of One Member One Vote. Labour Reform had two innovative features for a Labour pressure group. Firstly, Labour Reform operated very openly and maintained regular contact with the then General Secretary Tom Sawyer and his deputy Jon Cruddas. When Labour took power in 1997 Labour Reform continued to meet regularly with Cruddas who by this time had moved into Downing Street. For Labour Reform it was important to engage in dialogue. We wanted the leadership and establishment of the Party to understand, directly, about our concerns and to hear at first hand our ideas for a building a better party. These were the principles that Ann took with her into the NEC. Not only was important to Ann maintain deeply held beliefs and principles but it was critical to commit to working positively across all sections of the Party.

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UNCUT: BREAKING: Labour leader leaves national television interview with pants on fire

31/01/2018, 10:07:17 PM

by Rob Marchant

You could be forgiven for thinking that Andrew Marr’s interview last Sunday was to be an unremarkable one.

The first 16 minutes are fairly anodyne: the leader’s normal waffle on economics and the standard, disingenuous, face-both-ways position on Brexit. Important, but all things we know already.

From 16:25 we get onto Corbyn’s view that transgender people can self-identify, an issue rightly concerning a number of Labour women who see the incorporation of this into the Labour rulebook as a change fraught with opportunities for abuse, at “cis” women’s expense. A fair point. But to be realistic, this is an issue of probably minor importance to the electorate at large.

Then, nearly 19 minutes into a 21-minute interview, Marr, in a Lieutenant-Columbo-like manoeuvre, comes up with “just one more thing”, as he is metaphorically walking out the door, away from the scene of the crime.

“I was reading a poster, about an event celebrating the Iranian revolution, at which you spoke.”

Marr is gently pointing out that he had actively supported the Iranian regime in the past and not merely “engaged” with it.

“What?” The normally genteel Corbyn, for a second, is so startled, he almost snarls.

At this point, Corbyn recomposes himself and explains that he was on a delegation to Iran with other MPs, including former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, discussing nukes and human rights. So that’s all right then.

But it wasn’t all right. It wasn’t at all.

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UNCUT: The inspiration of Tessa Jowell

29/01/2018, 10:24:38 PM

by Jonathan Todd

In an era of robotic politicians, Tessa Jowell is a magnetic presence. The cause of unprecedented scenes of applause in the Lords. The catalyst to improved cancer services. Her humanity shrines like a beacon, reminding us that politics doesn’t have to disappoint.

There’s nothing like a dame, Peter Mandelson – quoting a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical – told the Dulwich and West Norwood (DaWN) summer party after Tessa, our MP, had been made an Order of the British Empire. This might have been the same year that we watched Andy Murray become the first male British Wimbledon champion since 1936. When Murray secured this victory, Tessa punched the air in the house backing on to Dulwich Park that has witnessed many of these annual events.

More immediately after Tessa became a dame, there was a party in the Commons to celebrate this elevation. While the eschewing of political honours exemplified by Keith Hill, Tessa’s sometime neighbouring MP, is impressive, there was also a lot to admire in the big tent assembled for Tessa’s party. From Tony Blair to Ken Livingston, from Kay Burley to the Southwark News, from Seb Coe to Brixton charities, it exemplified Tessa’s capacity to bring diverse people together.

I saw Tessa most closely in a less high-profile context than delivering the Olympics and Sure Start. At GC meetings in a chilly hall in Herne Hill. My decade on the DaWN GC is the only GC that I have known. I wasn’t going to do anything as sober as serve on a GC as a student and I’ve since moved to a CLP (Birmingham Ladywood) that doesn’t have one.

GCs are like wines. The more you experience, the more – if you pay attention – you appreciate. It initially seemed pretty uninviting and tedious. Over time, the personalities, politics and issues revealed themselves. I came to know DaWN through its GC and my understanding of Ladywood is hampered by its lack of a GC.

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UNCUT: 2018 must be the year Labour’s progressives set out their vision for Britain

21/01/2018, 09:47:18 PM

by Callum Anderson

Labour’s progressives would be forgiven for feeling weary from the way British political discourse has developed over the past few years.

Having been ejected from office in 2010, we have too often been forced onto the back foot – pre-occupied with defending the last Labour government’s record from opponents on both Left and Right.

Meanwhile, Conservative-led austerity – based on a failed economic theory – neither eliminated the deficit as promised nor restructured the economy such that it was not heavily reliant on financial services.

Instead, Britain has been subjected to a lost decade resulting in stagnant wages, a significant rise in the use of food banks, as well as homelessness, child poverty and insecure work.

Yet because progressives were too occupied with defending past actions, valuable time has been lost in addressing the long-term challenges facing Britain’s economy and society, and, with it, regaining the trust of the electorate.

Moreover, opposition and suspicion as to what the new influx of members into the Labour Party has meant has given the impression – fairly or unfairly – that progressives are against a whole host of things, but not in favour of very much.

This should change.

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UNCUT: Uncut Review: Pod Save America in London

19/01/2018, 10:02:14 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Kings of the King’s Road is a book about the Chelsea football team of the 1960s and 70s. The street has much changed since. Last Saturday, looking for somewhere serving a pint of beer, Uncut walked some distance past its high-end stores, little distinguishable from those of Manhattan, Dubai and so on. And then, inevitably, paid £6 for average IPA.

With 950 other paying customers at Cadogan Hall, we attended a self-help group for liberal America. Otherwise known as a recording of Pod Save America. Ex-Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett and Tommy Vietor debated politics in their inimitable way.

Comedy is the new rock’n’roll and podcasts are the new comedy. Our three heroes rode on stage to a backdrop of a video reminding us of some of Donald Trump’s most amusingly daft moments – which was reminiscent of the entrances made by some stand-ups. For example, Russell Brand on his Scandalous tour. The sense of comedic theatre did not end there: Lovett, in particular, delights in a well-timed zinger; the crowd, enthusiastic participants in a political pantomime, heartily cheered and booed on cue.

One of the targets of Lovett’s mirth was Sadiq Khan for turning down the opportunity to appear in the London show. He was busy being heckled by Trump supporters at the Fabian conference. While the headline slot at the Fabians is invariably a top gig in the early new year diaries of Labourites, it does not – unlike Pod Save America – average 1.5 million listeners per show. About as many people, as the New York Times recently reported, as Anderson Cooper draws on prime-time CNN.

These 30-somethings have transitioned from helping sow the Obama stardust to being media pioneers. Backstage influencers to main stage ringmasters. On a self-built stage.

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UNCUT: We need to talk about Momentum and anti-Semitism

17/01/2018, 01:25:56 PM

by Rob Marchant

Momentum is on a roll. It has just secured three places on Labour’s NEC. It is now on course to easily force deselections in seats where it does not like the sitting MP. It has also, as its first act in that newly-constituted NEC, just ousted the long-serving head of the Disputes Committee, Ann Black, on the left of the party – the Campaign Group, no less – but widely respected as fair and neutral.

“Fair” and “neutral” are words that we might struggle a little more to apply to her replacement, Christine Shawcroft. Shawcroft, you may remember, was one of the few party members who supported disgraced Tower Hamlets mayor, Lutfur Rahman, after he had been forced from office for electoral fraud and had not even been a party member for five years. A trick which got her suspended from the party (now reinstated). Amazingly, she was still defending him on Tuesday as the victim of “a terrible miscarriage of justice” (Rahman was also struck off as a solicitor a month ago).

Given Black’s long and distinguished tenure at the Disputes Committee, one wonders what motive there could possibly be for replacing her, other than to ensure that people on the far left that she might have found unpalatable will be allowed to join, re-join or have their suspensions lifted. You can almost picture Ken Livingstone and George Galloway rubbing their hands with delight as we speak. But more of Shawcroft later.

Momentum is clearly making moves towards its clear-but-as-yet-unstated objective of calling the shots within the Labour Party (if not necessarily of beating the Tories and securing a Corbyn government, a seemingly secondary priority).

Moderates everywhere should be concerned, not least because they are now at the start of a long process of being gradually squeezed out, constituency by constituency. This has been clear for some time and demonstrated by the examples we are about to give.

What is perhaps less obvious is that Momentum, unlike Labour, does not have such tight entry criteria or such an active Compliance Unit as Labour. This means that, although there is surely a majority of decent and well-meaning folk within Momentum’s 30,000 souls who essentially think that Corbyn is a good chap, there is a minority, for example from the old SWP, who have rather more disturbing methods of organising – a la Militant – and also more disturbing views.

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UNCUT: Will the legacy of moderate Labour be a country where only the hard right or the hard left can govern?

14/01/2018, 10:08:16 PM

by George Kendall

On most issues, I agree with social democrats and I disagree with the hard left who now control the Labour party. But not on all.

Paul Wheeler recently warned of Tory moves to entrench their political position by manipulating the political system. He called it “boiling a frog”, a great analogy. The Tories are indeed putting party interest before democracy.

But are Labour moderates much better?

At the last election, the two largest parties received 82% of the vote. If they genuinely represent the preferences of all but 18% of the electorate, that might justify a political system that stops new choices emerging. However, this is clearly not true.

In 2015, the two big parties received only 67%; in 2010 it was only 60%; and many who currently vote Labour or Conservative do so for tactical reasons. This is easy to confirm. Just go on social media and suggest to someone who opposes Brexit that they vote Lib Dem or Green. You will almost certainly be told that would “let the Tories in”, and that the only way to beat the Tories is to vote Labour.

Squeezing the third party vote has been a long-standing feature of British politics. Occasionally, if a third party builds up a bandwagon, they can use it against the Conservatives or Labour. Most of the famous Lib Dem by-election victories were built on persuading supporters of one party to vote tactically, to get the other party out. However, when it matters, in general elections, the squeeze favours the big two.

With the hard left takeover of the Labour party, some moderates must now be thinking the unthinkable, that if they are deselected by Labour, their only hope of staying in Westminster would be to stand as an independent or for another party. Yet they know that the electoral system would then crucify them in a general election.

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GRASSROOTS: “Boiling a frog” or how our voting rights have been eroded by the Tories

09/01/2018, 10:04:49 PM

by Paul Wheeler

If four years ago political commentators had suggested that millions of eligible voters would be arbitrarily removed from the electoral register or that the government would be introducing a system of voter identification at polling stations outlawed in Texas, they would have accused of paranoia.

Yet as we enter 2018 that’s precisely what’s happening in Britain – one of the world’s oldest democracies. In a classic Tory approach none of this has been announced as a public policy but in a combination of stealth and cock up we are heading to a fundamental erosion of long held voting rights.

Individual voting registration (IVR) was introduced in 2014 and sold as a way of democratising the registration process by allowing anyone to register to vote rather than relying on a self nominated (and usually male) Head of Household. The problem was that it relied on 350 local councils- the majority small district councils- to introduce this radical change at a time when their overall budgets were being dramatically slashed by central government..

The Electoral Commission, who were the cheerleaders for IVR,  could have learnt from Australia where IVR had been a feature of the electoral process for decades and relies on a comprehensive system of data tracking with government and housing agencies to maintain an accurate record (they even cross-reference to ensure that the recently deceased are automatically removed from the electoral register). They chose not to contact any of the relevant agencies in Australia presumably on the basis that Britain knows best.

Needless to say the introduction of Individual voter registration didn’t go well. Millions of forms were dispatched to individuals in a complex paper chase of which the only real beneficiaries were the Post Office and the suppliers of official stationary. Apart from a few London and metropolitan boroughs little attempt was made to cross reference the voter register with other official records to maintain an accurate electoral register. One example indicates the shambles of IVR as introduced in Great Britain. ‘Attainers’ – 16-17 year olds- had traditionally been included on the register by heads of households. Now no-one had responsibility for including them. The result was that the number of 16-17 years on the register collapsed in a large number of areas (over 50% in Liverpool). In Australia their inclusion on the register was the responsibility of schools and colleges –a sensible approach not even considered here.

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