Archive for December, 2011

The coalition is on life-support

13/12/2011, 10:12:36 AM

by Rob Marchant

“Mummy, what is that man for”? This exquisite, though probably apocryphal, comment from a small child has been variously said to be about many politicians over the years, including Herbert Asquith. But Asquith’s successor a century later, Nick Clegg, may suddenly be finding that a real and painful question, as he reflects on the wreckage of last week’s European summit.

But first, what happened: Cameron vetoed a treaty amendment on European integration, leaving the remaining countries no alternative but to set up a separate group which would implement the deal outside the EU. It was technically a veto, but only technically: it stopped nothing. The sticking point was said to be the financial transaction tax (FTT), an oddly unfair idea that a group of countries with relatively small financial sectors could jointly gang up to tax the one country which has an unseasonably large one, and which would certainly have damaged British interests. In that sense he was right to veto. Since the FTT is unfeasible without Britain, it was very likely a deliberate ploy by Sarkozy, as Ben Brogan suggests, to insist on this point which he knew Cameron could not accept, thus removing the “difficult” Cameron from the scene and clearing the way for an EU which might just have a chance of agreeing what it needed to agree.

However, this does not mean a triumph for Cameron – far from it. It is, as former Downing Street chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, told John Rentoul, “the worst foreign policy disaster in my adult lifetime”. But not because of the FTT. It is a disaster because it should never have come to this. Sarkozy took this action precisely because he knew Cameron was hamstrung and would never co-operate. Rather than the EU limping around with a British club foot, Sarkozy ruthlessly opted for amputation. But Sarkozy is no fool: he must have seen the attractions of a deal, but didn’t see it as possible.


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Don’t let the Tories hide their economic debacle behind their euro farrago

12/12/2011, 09:28:00 AM

by John Woodcock

The European summit may end up being bad for Britain, but it has had at least one notable up-side for David Cameron aside from getting him back on Bill Cash’s Christmas list.

The drama of the summit has filled a space in the domestic media that would otherwise still be occupied by scale of the problems Britain faces after the failure of the Tories’ reckless economic gamble.

So let the pages of Labour Uncut, at least, return to the fray over the consequences for Britain of the Tories choking off the recovery too early, despite Ed Balls’ warnings. They are terrible and ought to dent the Tories’ reputation for economic credibility for many years to come.

There has been lasting focus on these pages on the excellent pamphlet that marked the birth of In the black Labour. But, in the brief window of interest before attention was diverted by the euro, most observers failed to probe and discount the crude Tory line that sentiments of the pamphlet were outside, and in opposition to, the party mainstream.

In fact, as, to their credit, its authors have tried to point out, the pamphlet is simply picking up what both Eds set out in their speeches to Labour’s annual conference on the fundamental importance of re-staking our claim as the party of economic responsibility.

What they said then stands us in good stead to recapture the public debate now on how to deal with the fall out of the failure of the Cameron-Osborne plan.

First, rebalancing the economy. Our opponents continue to mischaracterise and under-estimate the importance of what Ed M said in Liverpool. Far from being a flight of fancy, his words were driven by Labour’s basic recognition of the need for an era of increased responsibility to build sounder economic foundations after the global recession. At a time when we continue to reel from the crash, and when so many families worry that that their ability to make ends meet is hampered by things beyond their control – from the turmoil of the eurozone countries to the collapse of the banks – there has rarely been a more pressing need to re-examine how governments can encourage greater longer term success and stable prosperity. It is up to us to make that vision add up to a convincing programme that we can present to voters.

And critically, our opponents have under-estimated what both have said on the need for fiscal discipline to get the country back on track. Ed M said back in September that he would deal with the country’s deficit if the Tories fail to do so in this parliament. Given the mess that the Tories are making of returning the country to growth, that pledge to the British people could prove to be the most important we make. Similarly critical to delivering it will be Ed B’s commitment to new fiscal rules – independently monitored by the office of budget responsibility – to get the country back to balance and national debt on a downward path.

We should give way to no-one on the key battleground of economic responsibility. The framework that Ed and Ed have set gives us chance to win. We need to get out and make that case.

John Woodcock is Labour MP for Barrow and Furness and a shadow transport minister.

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The week Uncut

11/12/2011, 07:44:22 PM

In case you missed them, these were the best read pieces on Uncut in the last seven days:

Peter Watt thinks volunteers make the world go round

Atul Hatwal looks at Labour’s relationship with the forces

Jonathan Todd says socialism is the language of priorities

Roberta Blackman-Woods reports on what the Chancellor’s doing to the North East

Anthony Painter on “In the black Labour”

Kevin Meagher says Labour must remain a moral crusade

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Sunday review: Ancient Greek by Oliver Emanuel

11/12/2011, 11:17:14 AM

by Conrad Landin

What if, in spite of what we’re constantly told about violence and vandalism on demonstrations, such action usually does have a political basis?

Is there such a thing, as David Cameron described the events of August, as “criminality, pure and simple”? As Suzanne Moore argued on Wednesday, if the PM was right about the riots, why then, and not before or after?

I would never defend the rioters and the destruction faced by predominantly-working-class communities. But can we look each other in the eyes and truly say that such events are apolitical?

In last week’s Radio 4 play Ancient Greek, this is the charge levelled at sixth-form student Alex King by his geography teacher Mr Ibrahim. Illegible graffiti have appeared; painted in corridors and etched into the deputy head’s car. And the culprit is the studious Alex, about to take up a place to study classics at Cambridge. (more…)

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Labour needs to be an honest friend to the forces

09/12/2011, 11:38:44 AM

by Atul Hatwal

At the start of autumn, Uncut revealed that morale amongst the armed forces had plummeted, the first decline since the annual surveys began in 2007.

The obvious reason is the government’s bungled strategic security and defence review (SSDR). But as deep as the cuts to defence budgets are, and as badly as they have been managed by the MoD, the SSDR alone does not sufficiently explain the depth of the collapse in morale. There’s a missing element.


While in opposition the Tories turned a slogan, “backing our troops”, into the entirety of their party’s policy. General Dannat’s love-in with David Cameron was symptomatic of a military establishment that felt the Tories endorsed their world view and would act as a political arm of the defence chiefs of staff. (more…)

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Volunteers make the world go round: we must thank them

08/12/2011, 09:23:36 AM

by Peter Watt

Everyone loves an activist. Political parties simply couldn’t operate without them. Those with shared values and purpose, who dedicate themselves to furthering the success of their party by spending hours fundraising, leafleting, stuffing and knocking on doors. My personal pet hate over the years has always been street stalls – I hate them. But elections couldn’t be won without them, as the machinery of delivery would quite simply grind to a halt.

But there are other forms of activism that are not overtly political, but that nevertheless are also values lead and also worthy of merit. The chair of the community group, the scout or guide leader and those that run sports clubs on a Saturday morning. What about magistrates, hospital visitors or those who spend time cleaning out canals. Or samaritans, trustees or school volunteers. All examples of people who give up their unpaid time to be active in the pursuit of something that is for the good of others.

Just think about it. Could you really be a parent, or work or volunteer at something else, and still be active enough in the Labour party to get noticed? Possibly; but it would be pretty difficult and you almost certainly wouldn’t see very much of your family. (more…)

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Socialism is the language of priorities

07/12/2011, 10:06:30 AM

by Jonathan Todd

I had no idea that policy network was going to publish “into the black Labour” at the end of last week. Its stress upon fiscal credibility, however, chimed with one of the themes of my piece for Labour Uncut earlier last week. My other theme was the economic incompetence of the government, which Cormac Hollingworth argues was not shown in “into the black Labour” and needs to be demonstrated for Labour to return to government.

I see no contradiction between demonstrating both the government’s economic incompetence and Labour’s fiscal credibility. In fact, the whole point of my piece last week was that both are essential. There is every chance that the government’s incompetence will come to be more widely accepted by a frustrated public. However, we delude ourselves if we presume that this will be enough to return us to government. We will not win by default. We need to make a positive case for Labour that includes lessons learnt from the last general election.

“Into the black Labour” is right to see fiscal credibility as central to this positive case. To make this case, Labour needs to follow through on the policy changes that increased fiscal credibility requires and to repeatedly stress these changes in the way we present ourselves.

We need to change and be seen to have changed, such that by being this change we personify the answers to Britain’s problems. And Britain faces no bigger problem than finding the resources to pay for public services. Yet, as “into the black Labour” recognises, “it is precisely the vagueness of Labour’s position over its short to medium term plans for the deficit that confirms the voters’ worst suspicions about the party’s lack of commitment to addressing the fiscal crisis”.


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When does a social democratic party stop being social democratic?

06/12/2011, 08:22:55 AM

by Kevin Meagher

“There is nothing right-wing about fiscal conservatism”, begins “In the black Labour: why fiscal conservatism and social justice go hand-in-hand“. The policy network’s much talked about pamphlet argues that to rebuild its reputation for economic competence, Labour has to learn to love big brother in the shape of embracing fiscal rectitude.

It is a hard-headed but reductive prognosis for a centre-left party. It seems a bit like having a car without any petrol. You can point it in the direction you want to travel in, but you have no means of ever getting there. So what, ultimately, is the point of the car?

That is, in essence, the dilemma this argument, elegantly and persuasively made by the authors (including our own Anthony Painter), presents Labour with. When does a party – a democratic socialist one (in the words of “new” clause four) – stop being the very thing it professes to be? How elastic are our principles, our thinking, and, most importantly, the trust of the people who vote for us if we embark on a self-denying ordinance on public spending? (more…)

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Heading for a generation of Neets in the North East

05/12/2011, 02:17:44 PM

by Roberta Blackman-Woods

Last week the chancellor delivered his autumn statement which offered very little to stimulate growth and create employment opportunities for areas of high youth unemployment. Last month figures revealed that youth unemployment has for the first time topped one million in this country and in the North East the situation is extremely troubling.

The government scrapped Labour’s future jobs fund which created over 100,000 jobs for young people. Youth unemployment is now reaching crisis levels, having shot up by 77% this year alone. There are now fewer people moving from benefits into work than at any time since 1998 which the chancellor’s statement fails to address at all.

Whoever the government tries to blame, the fact is Britain’s economic recovery was choked off a year ago and unemployment started rising again well before the recent eurozone crisis. We know this because unemployment rates are time lagged.


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Michael Gove, Nelson Mandela and the King James bible

05/12/2011, 08:23:09 AM

by Stephanie Peacock

It is often said that the only way a politician can leave a legacy is to name a building after himself. I say “him” because, other than a hundred Conservative clubs in the provincial towns of England, I cannot think of a building that carries the name of a former female politician. There is the Centre Pompidou in France, The Reagan National airport. You can’t walk through a Labour borough in London without finding at least one tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Michael Gove, though, got an ‘A’ for originality last week. Michael has created a whole new genre of political legacy. Without any sense of irony, Mr Gove has personalised his very own version of the bible. For ever more, the Michael Gove King James bible will be a sought after piece of ebay memorabilia.

Of course it was Mrs Thatcher who once said that “No-one would remember the good samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well”.  Of all of Mrs Thatcher’s biblical quotes, this is the one that most showed her to be out of touch. The Michael Gove King James bible may be the education secretary’s good samaritan moment: an act of political messaging that spectacularly misses the mark.

Pupils and parents will see this for what it: a misguided and expensive piece Govian spin. According to reports, the gesture could cost the taxpayer £375,000. At a time when dinner ladies are striking over their pension increases this is an appalling piece of mixed messaging. There are a lot of dinner ladies you could make happy with £375,000.


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