Archive for May, 2013

What makes yesterday’s barbarism so sickening is that it was not just bad, it was, quite literally, mad

23/05/2013, 11:53:26 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Yesterday a man appeared in court charged with murdering four soldiers in the IRA’s Hyde Park bombing three decades ago.

Hours later, in the same city, another British soldier met his death at the hands of those pursuing a markedly different political cause.

The comparison with the Provisional IRA is instructive in making sense of what happened in Woolwich yesterday afternoon.

The cause, (if not its modus operandi), of Irish republicans is a rational one, rooted in the Enlightenment and with a realisable end goal, namely a united Ireland. It can be negotiated with and is capable of compromise. It can, and largely has, rechanneled its efforts along peaceful, democratic lines.

What we saw yesterday afternoon in Woolwich was the opposite of this in almost every regard.

It is still early days, but it appears two young men, adhering to a radicalised version of Islam, were prepared to murder a random stranger by running him down in a car before decapitating him in broad daylight. Rather than flee the scene, they hung around, keen for some form of martyrdom, or at least notoriety, courtesy of YouTube.

It is now customary to say the perpetrators of these attacks have been ‘radicalised’. This is the nebulous term always used to describe the process of indoctrination that drives young muslims to these fanatical extremes.


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The polling that shows why Labour’s lead is soft

22/05/2013, 03:32:53 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The terms of the debate are shifting within the Labour party. Since the underwhelming local elections, the question is no longer whether the poll lead is soft but why. Just this morning, one of Ed Miliband’s more doughty supporters in the media, Mary Riddell, penned her most pessimistic piece to date on Labour’s position.

This change has been partially obscured by the recent writhing of the Tory right over Europe and gay marriage but as the spending review approaches, it will come into sharp focus.

As ever, the answer to the question is to be found in voters’ views on the economy and specifically spending.

Labour’s case against the government has been clear: excessive Tory cuts killed off the flickering recovery of 2010 with the deficit rising as growth flatlines.

It is hard to disagree with the economics. But there’s a political problem.

More and more of the public back the cuts.

YouGov have asked a detailed series of questions on deficit reduction over the past three years and the shift in responses shines a light on why Labour’s poll lead isn’t so much soft as aqueous.

The public’s support for action on the deficit has been constant: at the start of March 2011, 57% felt that “the way the government is cutting spending” was necessary versus 32% who thought it unnecessary. Last week the figures were 57% and 29%, virtually no change over the past two years.

This should have been a warning that something wasn’t quite right with the poll lead: how could the public support Labour while also agreeing with the government’s approach to cuts.

But the YouGov surveys also had seemingly contradictory responses. The key question is on whether the public believe the depth of the cuts to be “too shallow,” “about right,” or “too deep.” The answers to this question initially suggested a consensus that the cuts were too deep. But that is changing.

Source: YouGov

Since April 2012 when 13% more felt the cuts to be “too deep” than either “about right” or “too shallow”, the position has shifted radically. This week, the poll had the pro-cuts camp 2% ahead.


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Labour history uncut: “We’re bunkered!” The red scare election of ‘24

20/05/2013, 07:17:07 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

It was October 8th 1924 and Ramsay Macdonald was in high spirits. He noted in his diary,

“So the chapter ends after a great day when at the close we stood higher in the House of Commons than ever…We had knocked them all over the ring and they were ashamed of themselves”

Or to put it another way, “Good news everybody – our government has fallen,”

Parliament had voted for an inquiry into whether Labour pressure had caused the prosecution of the communist Workers Weekly editor, John Campbell, to be dropped. Macdonald had taken this to be a motion of censure, chucked himself out of office and called a new election for the 29th October.

He needn’t have, but there had been an election in each of the previous 2 years, so there was a certain symmetry to it at least.

Readers began to suspect a little bias in Shoot! comic

After a brief government characterised by caution and a gradual approach to social reform, Labour got its reward – accusations of communism and a campaign dominated by a virulent red scare.

The Times declared Labour’s commitment to establish a national network of electricity generating stations “a project dear to Lenin.” So think about that next time you’re boiling a kettle, you commie.

Conservative leaflets warned parents to be on their guard against “plausible men and women who invite their children to join Sunday school and clubs.” This was because such activities were, needless to say, a cover for children “to be baptised into the communistic faith.” Presumably the implausible men and women were absolutely fine.


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Ed’s handling of Europe is eroding trust in his leadership

20/05/2013, 02:08:20 PM

by Dan McCurry

In 1997, Tony Blair won an election by occupying the traditional home ground of the Tories. In 2010, Gordon Brown fought off the Tories by creating a clear dividing line between us and them. Today, Ed Miliband’s strategy is less easy to define, but I contend that it involves avoiding debate with the Tories. This is not good. This can be extremely damaging.

Miliband said at conference 2012: “The Labour party lost trust on the economy. And under my leadership, we will regain that trust.” I don’t think he has increased trust in the Labour brand. In some ways it has been damaged since he made this speech.

The Tories have a far more coherent economic policy than we do. Even though the whole world agrees that we were right and they were wrong, they have a clear offer and we have a confused one. Ed Balls and Rachel Reeves did a terrific job of explaining the difference between austerity and Keynesianism, but our commitment to a Keynesian offer has been vague and tentative. This is in contrast to Gordon Brown who confronted and contrasted Tory policy with our own Keynesian plan.

Most of the debate on the economy is over now, and people have a settled view of the parties. It’s likely that we are returning to positive growth, although few would attribute this to the government’s policies, so it is questionable as to whether they will benefit at the polls, even if the feel-good factor returns. Trust, in general, is likely a more important issue at the next election.

The problem with trust is that it is a two-way relationship. Would you trust someone who doesn’t trust you? Of course not. Would you trust a politician who won’t tell you his policy? Of course not.

How about a politician who won’t tell you his policy, because the other guys will attack it, and he thinks that you are incapable of sifting the arguments? No, you wouldn’t take kindly to that either.


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Miliband must make, not accept, the political weather

20/05/2013, 07:00:18 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“Are our problems so deep nobody can actually make a difference to them? My emphatic answer to that is yes.” The state of the nation was revealed in Ed Miliband’s slip of the tongue in the run-up to the local elections. Only one in three of those eligible to vote in these elections bothered to do so, down 10 points from when these seats were last contested in the halcyon days of 2009. Where given the opportunity, one in four voters gave their support to Ukip, which is as near as it gets to voting ‘none of the above’.

This is no glad, confident morning. It is a nervous twilight. “When Cameron talks”, as Rick Nye notes, “about the global race – the opportunities that lie ahead for Britain and the risks of being left behind” – those that voted Ukip “look at their very personal race, and fear it has already been run. They feel they have been abandoned by all political parties. It is no accident that Ukip does disproportionately well among older, non-graduate, white men.”

One Nation Labour is yet to convince that it can build hope in this cold climate. Politicians make, as well as experience, the weather, however. Perhaps voters would be more confident about the future if Ed Miliband seemed to them more of a prime minister in the waiting with answers to their problems.

Conservatives have long insisted that Cameron looks more prime ministerial than Miliband. Given that Cameron is presently the prime minister, this is to be expected. Yet Miliband is behind where Cameron and Tony Blair were at the same stages in their leaderships in terms of being perceived ready to be prime minister.

While 19 percent more voters thought Jim Callaghan “the best PM” than thought Margaret Thatcher in the last poll before the 1979 election, the sea change that was that election still swept Callaghan from office. His current polling may not be a barrier to Miliband being a similar sea change prime minister.

But Miliband should not assume such a sea change or that he would be its beneficiary. It’s hard to look at the rise of Ukip and feel we are living in a country moving to the left. This rise has contributed to Cameron finally abandoning his modernisation project and adopting policies reminiscent of their 2001 and 2005 general election campaigns: tough on welfare, strident on immigration and offering a referendum on the EU.


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Prospective parliamentary candidate selection statements: Amanda Ramsay, Bristol South

19/05/2013, 03:42:28 PM

As Labour’s selection timetable for prospective parliamentary candidates accelerates, Uncut will publishing candidate statements for short-listed candidates. Today, Amanda Ramsay who is running for Bristol South. The final hustings is on the 8th of June.

As a local and national campaigner, living and working in south Bristol, I know the charities I help – and the people they support – do best with Labour. That’s one of the reasons I’m standing to be a Labour candidate and why I want to devote my working life to making a real difference in Bristol South.

An active trade unionist, I believe we achieve more when we work together; representing workers from across the South West on the regional and national sector committee for Unite, I’m an equalities officer for my branch of Community, Youth Workers and Not for Profit sectors, rep and member of the Bristol District Area Activist Committee.

I’ve had a wide range of jobs, from cleaning and shop work to many years in the travel industry, working mainly between the voluntary and private sectors for many years; for huge companies like Granada, for example, but also loved being a part-time teacher and tutor, to supplement my income and share my love of politics and working with young people, teaching advanced level government and politics. Getting a student through her A-levels and into university, someone everyone else had written off, is still one of my biggest achievements to date.

What matters to me most is using my experience on the local and national stage to lessen the disadvantages of poverty and inequality in our society, by negotiating the best deal for Bristol South, securing investment for jobs and regeneration, fighting for fair pay and a Living Wage, employment rights and defending the welfare state.

Educational opportunities changed my life and I want to see such chances for everyone, regardless of where they are born or grow-up. School children from all social backgrounds excel at Knowle Park Primary, where I am a governor. I want to take the fight to the coalition, who seem to have created a lost generation, with little on offer for young people leaving school this summer.


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Is Labour going back to the future?

17/05/2013, 09:30:38 AM

by John Braggins

Back in the day if you were bored you could go to the pictures at 3pm for the first showing and stay there until they turned the lights off after the last showing.  The projectionist just kept running the films one after the other on a loop. These days politics is beginning to feel like it’s on a loop as well. The arguments Labour faced in the 1980s – Europe, unemployment, benefits, tax and spend and even leadership – are being rehearsed again.

This week, writing in the Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ellie Mae O’Hagan urged Ed Miliband to take Labour back to the time when ‘ordinary people’ voted Labour in the knowledge that Labour was on their side. Suggesting that people who no longer vote Labour would come back into the fold if only it was more left wing is surely to fall into the trap Labour faced in the 1980s.

Ms O’Hagan’s argument is based on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report which states that ‘attitudes of the British public towards poverty have hardened and that the most marked shift has been among Labour voters. These days only 27% of Labour supporters cite social injustice as the main cause of poverty, down from 41% in 1986. Conversely, Labour supporters identifying laziness and lack of willpower as the main cause of poverty rose from 13% to 22% in the same period’.

Her take on it was that ‘perhaps some of those surveyed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who would have at one time classed themselves as Labour supporters, have been repelled by the party’s decidedly un-leftwing behaviour.’

Perhaps. Or perhaps not.

The 1983 general election defeat where Labour secured just 27.6% of the national vote – a mere 2.2% ahead of the Liberal/SDP vote and 14.8% behind the Tories – traumatised Labour and put an end to the fierce arguments that raged in 1981 about which direction Labour should go, symbolised by the election of Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley as leader and deputy at the Party’s 1983 conference.

Labour began its long journey back to power, but it took another general election defeat in 1987 before any serious research was undertaken to find out what it was Labour would have to do to get elected again.

There were two lines of thought: one, let’s put together a ‘rainbow coalition’ only comprising of those that still vote Labour, ethnic minorities, environmentalists and trade unionists and target our policies towards them, or two, let’s find out why those who had deserted Labour had done so and build a bigger coalition to include them.

It didn’t take a genius to work out that the first option was, in effect, double counting – a Labour voter concerned about the environment who happened to be black and a trade unionist, only had one vote and however that coalition was put together it could never get past 35%.

I was in the camp of ‘let’s find out why people had deserted Labour and see if we could get them back’ and despite reservations, I persuaded the London Labour party to pay for focus group research in Battersea to find out why popular local MP Alf Dubbs had lost his seat in 1987. The startling news in the report was that whilst everyone in the focus groups had either been helped by Alf Dubbs or knew someone who had, none of them had voted for him.


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Letter from Wales: Local snouts in the devolved trough

16/05/2013, 11:14:34 PM

by Julian Ruck

I was born in Wales, Swansea to be precise. At 18 I went off to London to train as a lawyer and didn’t return to my place of birth until 30 years had passed. I have lived in various parts of the world and all over the UK.

I had missed the beauty of Wales, its innate humour and radical spirit but when I returned, I found a different place. A foreign place. Devolution is admirable in intent, but in Wales it has allowed a self-serving and extreme minority to step on and abuse the will of the majority.

A Welsh language nationalism has been allowed to run riot and ruthlessly suppress the moderate views of an emasculated majority – these nationalist cliques, coteries and cabals have also been allowed to spend tax-payers’ money (your money) at will and without any proper scrutiny or accountability. And please remember here that 80% plus of Welsh GDP comes from Westminster.

Wales is now run by a Welsh speaking elite that adds a new dimension to the word “entitled” and considers itself to be the noble successor to the duffed up Owen Glendower (without his Indentures) at the height of his nationalist misery – never mind of course, that he was rampaging around the Welsh marches some six hundred years ago!

Now, I can hear all you English folk saying to yourselves, “How boring, another bitter Taffy having a good rant about how hard done by he is and how we English raped his fair country and ran off with all the dosh.”

Not so, do please read on and discover what happens to a Welshman living in Wales when he stands up and speaks the truth.

Some nine months ago I dared to put some Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to various Welsh literati quangos e.g. the Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Books Council and Literature Wales.


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We need an NEC inquiry into the democracy deficit in our MEP selections

16/05/2013, 01:38:56 PM

by Anita Pollack

The protests about fine candidates being left off European selection lists are not confined to London.  Stories of injustice have surfaced from a number of regions.

After three European elections when Labour’s fate was to lose seats, the elections to the European Parliament in 2014 offer a chance of winning some seats and adding much needed new blood to the European Parliamentary Labour Party.

Consequently, it is not surprising that there have been a high number of candidates, particularly since those elected this time will be there for at least five years and maybe a decade or more.  What is unpleasant, however, is that the results appear to have been rigged.

Personally, I can only speak about London, where friends of the worthy no-longer-candidate Anne Fairweather took the protests to a new level, the front page of the Times.  But this is not a case of only one good candidate being blocked.

Carole Tongue, who was a dynamic London MEP between 1984 – 99 and a deputy Leader of Labour’s European team, and who has been working closely with unions on a number of hot European issues since then has also been cast aside without even an interview.

Ilford South constituency has passed a motion in her favour, as has, I believe, Streatham for Anne Fairweather. Clearly had these women been granted an interview their qualities would have been manifestly obvious and it would have been more difficult to keep them off the final list.  So the word had to be to block them from the start to pave the way for the favoured union candidates.

I wrote to Iain McNichol with a copy to Alan Olive expressing astonishment at Carole Tongue being barred, but no reply has been forthcoming.  As a former MEP myself of ten years and a stalwart Labour loyalist, I find this disrespectful to say the least.


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The case for the City

15/05/2013, 01:30:21 PM

by Dan McCurry

I grew up in the east end after the docks had died. We used to go fishing for eels in the place that is now called Canary Wharf, although it wasn’t called anything back then. These days, when I look out of the kitchen window of my ex-council flat in Bow, this is what I see. Beautiful, isn’t it?

So when people say that there is no drip down effect from financial services, I don’t understand what they mean. If there is no drip down, then who is paying for those windows to be cleaned? For those computers to be maintained? For the sandwiches to be made and payroll to be calculated?

Are they honestly saying that behind every window in that  glittering 3-dimensional city, is a bonus-earning banker, and no one else? I’d say that only one in a hundred windows has a banker, and the others are ordinary people doing ordinary jobs. Those jobs are derived from the wealth created by financial services?

The City hasn’t ended (wiped out) poverty, and maybe that’s what they mean, but no other industrial sector would do that. They may also be arguing that the City has contributed to inequality, due to the very high pay of the few. That is a legitimate point, but it’s not the same argument as “no drip-down effect”. Regardless of this, the people in the City who occupy the lower rungs are highly unionised and are usually paid well. This is an obvious asset to our country.


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