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Don’t be an April-fool – RegistHER to Vote!

01/04/2015, 04:44:19 PM

by Sophie Duder

Today on 1st April, RegistHERtoVote – an online action group – is launching our campaign with one very simple message: Don’t be an April-fool – RegistHER to Vote!

Register-postcard (1)

We’re doing this because as Harriet Harman has been so brilliantly active in pointing out 9.1 million women didn’t vote at the last election. That is a staggering number. It’s almost equivalent to the population of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland just not turning up at the polls. Whilst that’s a scenario that might please Nigel Farage, it gives a sense of just how many people we are talking about.   Women are also 10% more likely to be undecided than men – 35% of us don’t know who we are going to vote for. So it’s the job of our party to convince those 9 million women who didn’t turn out in 2010 not just to vote – but to vote Labour.  We need to show the 35% of women who are undecided that Labour is the right choice.

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Is socialism still at the heart of the Labour party?

31/03/2015, 07:23:18 PM

by Daniel Charleston-Downes

Just before the Labour party conference in 2013 Ed Miliband was asked when he was going to put socialism back on the agenda of the Labour Party. ‘That’s what we’re doing sir’ was his reply. As we approach the election he has again been asked to defend his record as ‘Red Ed’, being told that the party was still not left wing enough for one supporter. The party is plenty radical enough for Mr Cameron however who described the entire party as a ‘bunch of hypocritical, holier-than-thou, hopeless, sneering socialists’.

To some extent you can ignore Cameron’s quote as an uncharacteristically desperate and overt personal attack on Miliband in response to a surprise poll bump for his party. But there are growing voices in the party, especially when faced with having to defend austerity measures, that are dusting off their berets and bringing their Marxism out of retirement. Already within the Labour party you have Labour Left and Red Labour to name just some factions that draft policy and put pressure on the party to move left. Some of those that feel that the cause is already lost have defected to the Greens or more recently Left Unity.

Labour is still, in at least name, a social democratic party and is affiliated with socialist groups in Europe and the wider international community. Socialism in Britain has always been a little different to its European brother with a tendency to venerate the Lords and the Queen and have a deep respect and even spiritual relationship with the Church. Traditionally, Labour’s greatest and most radical socialists have come from the middle to upper classes, take Tony Benn and Clement Attlee as examples. The Labour party, since it became a large-scale political party, hasn’t always sat easy with the working classes as a true movement for the masses.

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Uncut review: “Blair Inc: The man behind the mask” by Francis Beckett, David Hencke and Nick Kochan

26/03/2015, 05:14:24 PM

by Chris Ricôt

No sooner had I left the bookshop than the sales assistant ran after me. “I’m sorry, sir, but I wasn’t actually allowed to sell you that book.” What was going on? “It’s embargoed. Apparently the release date’s been pushed back. It’s being serialised in a weekend newspaper.”

No prizes for guessing which. This book is hysterical in its condemnation of Blair. Page after page of wild estimates about personal fortunes, consultancy fees and property portfolios go beyond the polemic. It’s a double-page spread of tabloid anti-Blairism extrapolated over 370-odd pages. A quick look at the sources at the back list a tangle of websites that alternate between Mail Online and the Telegraph. Serious journalism this ain’t.

The authors aren’t sure if Blair is callow, cynical or both. Their story begins on 27 June 2007, the day Blair resigned as prime minister. As soon as he was appointed Middle East peace envoy, Blair ‘set about making himself seriously rich.’ The distaste for Blair’s “excellent state pension,” “twenty-four hour security team” and “increasing web of relations” (whatever that’s meant to mean) is established right from the outset. The authors are baffled that those “who still support him do so with greater intensity than ever before.”

The book peddles the myth that Blair didn’t achieve much in office, when his supporters remember how he fundamentally transformed our country. It’s not just Northern Ireland and the national minimum wage: it’s Sure Start. Civil partnerships. Paternity leave. Devolution.  A reference to Sierra Leone’s civil war is dismissed as  “his most (and only) successful foreign intervention.” What  about Kosovo?

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Just not good enough – a story of Labour selection

06/03/2015, 03:49:55 PM

by Paul Wheeler

I had an interesting conversation with a well connected Labour councillor recently. We both had an interest in a recent Parliamentary selection contest.

His preferred candidate won and it was clear why. He had the better website, he had been full time contacting members for months, he was bright, articulate and union sponsored. In fact he was so well organised he even got his supporting union to provide a breakfast to ensure his supporters turned up for the early morning selection meeting. As my new friend put it cruelly but accurately my preferred candidate ‘just wasn’t good enough’

And he was right. He ran a slip shod campaign with a pretty poor website and relied on old contacts and promises. All he had going for him was that he was born and bred in the constituency and as a leading councillor had helped turned the town around when everyone else had written it off.  Critically for a lot of new members to the area he hadn’t been to university and was therefore not ‘quite up to the job’ of being an MP.

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A little boost to British defence spending would go a long way to helping keep the international peace

18/02/2015, 10:13:13 PM

by Karl Johnson

It’s good to know what other countries are thinking about us. I was drawn to a recent article in the American Spectator by Australian lawyer Hal G P Colebatch, entitled Setting the Stage for a Losing Falklands War: Are Britain’s Armed Forces Going Over a Cliff? It mentions our delays in completing our new aircraft carriers, speculative reports in our press that the British army might be cut to 60,000 troops in the near future, and the sale of Russian fast jets and helicopters to Argentina. Colebatch concludes that with a defence budget of less than 2% of national income and a ‘bath-tub Royal Navy’, Britain will be unable to protect its territorial interests against an increasingly nationalistic Argentina, with the inference that we will similarly fail to add our weight against Russian expansionism and the spread of Islamist extremism.

My first impression was that it’s encouraging to know that there are sufficient Anglophiles in America to warrant a concerned piece about the state of our armed forces. Then I considered that the article was quite misleading. Yet I still find myself in broad agreement with its substance.

Colebatch’s argument is one that needs taking down and building up again slightly differently, because it is very nearly right. The truth is that the Falklands are fine. The British armed forces have undergone a painful reduction in the past 25 years, but this is part of a wider trend of demobilisation that has affected most of the world since the end of the cold war. The dissolution of the iron curtain led to an era of globalisation and growth in trade in which large-scale defence expenditure was a hindrance. Britain’s defence cuts have been less stringent than those of most other countries in recent years, and our budget is still one of the largest in the world even at 2.3% of our GDP.

Argentina remains in steep national decline and has not experienced any substantial military engagement since the 1982 conflict. There are mischievous rumours that the Argentine government is reluctant to let its warships visit foreign ports for fear of them being seized by creditors (a result of their policy of using the state’s assets as collateral for debts), and according to the South American Mercopress, a flypast of the air force to mark the country’s bicentenary in 2010 was cancelled due to “the risk of the obsolete aircraft over Buenos Aires.”

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It’s my first time voting and I live in Rotherham. What should I do?

18/02/2015, 09:51:44 AM

by Chloe Staniforth

I’m born and bred in Rotherham, your typical working class Northern town with a Labour council since 1933.

Throw into the mix the fact my family are Labour supporters too and it’s pretty obvious who I’m expected to vote for in this year’s general election.

Yet it seems my first time voting isn’t quite as simple as that.

After all, my home town is receiving a lot of attention at the moment for all the wrong reasons.

Professor Alexis Jay was commissioned in November 2013 to lead an independent inquiry into allegations of child sexual exploitation in the town and the local council’s handling of cases.

Her report last August revealed the hidden scale of the problem in Rotherham over a 16-year period.

Now, a follow-up report from local government inspector, Louise Casey, has concluded that the council is “not fit for purpose” and identified some necessary measures for preventing further cases.

In short, Rotherham has become a by-word for negligence, callousness and incompetence. Labour couldn’t have a worse backdrop for their campaign.

I’ve grown up being educated to vote. I appreciate and thank the Suffragettes for their campaigning all of those years ago which allow me this opportunity to vote.

But, I’m afraid, I’m in an impossible position in a town where well over 1,000 females have been abused and abandoned.

I don’t feel I can trust the Labour party to rectify their awful handling of the situation, nor begin to put things right.

Rotherham has since become a major target for UKIP and a hot bed for the far right. Neither of which I would ever want running Rotherham.

So I’m left with the Conservatives – an unprecedented choice for me considering my upbringing. And a vote for the Tories seems awasted vote and would open the door for UKIP.

I feel my only choice is to act like a sulky teenager and spoil my ballot paper, but I really don’t want to lose my first vote.

What should I do?

Chloe is a first time voter

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Golden Dawn’s neo-Nazis came third and wait in the wings. Europe must remember that when negotiating with Syriza

26/01/2015, 09:36:33 AM

by Ranjit Singh Sidhu

It has been a few years since the great financial crash, which started when the US financial houses saw the products they created out of junk and sold as pure gold turn back to worthless junk. One by one they were either scarified or saved, with a notable survivor being one of the biggest culprits of all: Goldman Sachs.

We can look back and see how the contagion spread across the world leading to government after government instinctively cutting back spending, this in turn leading to an inevitable spiral down first to recession and then to a depression, every area of the globe entering a period of unrest.

In Europe one country, being bound by a financial accord that meant it was dictated economically by others, suffers worst of all.  Unemployment had risen from 8% to 30%, it has also  lost 42% of it’s economic output. With the old political order seen as failing the people turn to alternative radical parties. In just 3 years one party that polled 2.3% now is on the edge of power: It has 1.4 million members and stands on the edge of gaining power with 37% of the vote.

Sound familiar?

The party is the National Socialist Party, the country Germany in 1932 ,the financial crash that of Wall Street 1929 ( and yes, Goldman Sachs was pivotal in selling junk in that crash as well) .

On the 31st of July 1932 the Nazi party received 37.4% of the vote and became the largest party in the Federal Elections.  The German people’s rising anger towards the financial reparations of the Treaty of Versailles had been shown a few years earlier when the referendum calling for the abolition of  the ‘Law against the Enslavement of the German People’ received  94%  of the vote.

As Syriza goes about building a government,  Greece stands with 30% of its economic output gone since 2009, unemployment at 26% and youth unemployment at 50%. We must not be deaf to history and what can arise when economic destruction is imposed on a country.

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Labour’s minority problem

13/01/2015, 03:24:53 PM

by Henry Engler

Just one week after the major political parties launched their General Election campaigns, depressingly little headway has been made to cut through the cynicism of the electorate.

And voters aren’t the ones to blame. Their apathy is reflective of a much wider problem.

Seven years of austerity are taking their toll and none of the major parties have reached out far enough and wide enough to engage with real people in order to deliver their message.

And that’s before you take the ethnic minorities into account. While far from ignored, Labour has rested on its laurels in recent years and seen its traditional voter base eroded.

Bradford and Tower Hamlets should have been the wakeup call that the party needed but sadly the lessons have not been learnt and CLP’s around the UK are either being hollowed out, or failing to take advantage of the significant number of ethnic minority voters in their constituencies.

What’s worse is that this is often happening without the party noticing, especially in Labour-led authorities, or where the majority is superficially large.

Take Edmonton constituency in north London. This is a seat that has delivered large majorities for Labour. And why wouldn’t it, given its “traditional Labour” demographic. However, as recently as 1997 the seat was held by the Conservatives.

Let’s not forget that Clacton (formerly Harwich) was Labour until 2005. And Heywood & Middleton, which only remained Labour by a whisker in October’s by-election.

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England’s coastal towns need Labour. We mustn’t forget about them

09/01/2015, 11:24:01 AM

by Nathan Bennet

The Labour party should aim to represent coastal towns across the whole of Southern and Eastern England.

We hold seats in Southampton and Plymouth. Many of our target seats are there – Brighton, Hastings, Great Yarmouth, to name just a few. But I’d go further and argue that there’s a case for Labour representation well outside of our usual battlegrounds.

First, let’s debunk the general myth some permeate that there isn’t really a case for Labour in southern England outside our target seats. Bin the North-South divide – the real world is far more complicated.

Look at wages: Labour’s Southern Taskforce have mapped data from the ONS’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. We’ve shown that right round the coast of Southern and Eastern England, average wages are below the national average. There are 43 coastal constituencies here where a higher proportion of people earn less than the living wage than the national average.

And it’s not always in the places you’d expect. In Torridge, West Devon average wages are just over £15,000 a year – £7,000 less than the national average. 38.6% of workers don’t earn a living wage. A report by Sheffield Hallam University and CRESR highlighted the dependency of much of the coast on seaside tourism. It employs 140,000 people in the South and East, and towns like Salcombe, Fowey, Southwold, New Quay, and Aldeburgh are heavily dependent on it. Yes they’re jobs, but they’re often seasonal and low paid, meeting few aspirations and offering few chances to get on

Rebalancing these local economies is as important here as in declining former industrial tows. The coalition’s reliance on market forces clearly isn’t delivering. The southern and eastern coastal communities, need an active government, willing to devolve power and resources, reforming the banks to support small business, delivering on real improvements in broadband, and tackling persistent failings in many schools that leave too many children poorly qualified and means that, even in regions of high HE participation, children from the poorer areas are missing out.

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Jim Murphy needs to be radical to revive Labour in Scotland

18/12/2014, 05:27:18 PM

by Daniel Charelston-Downes

Labour, according to the New Statesman, is now 20 points behind the SNP in Westminster voting intentions. This would see an almost virtual wipeout of Scottish seats for Labour and goes some way to explaining why Nicola Sturgeon was so keen to welcome the new Scottish Labour leadership with words of unity and collaboration. It seems SNP are preparing for, even expecting, coalition partnership.

Jim Murphy’s leadership has come at a crucial time for Scottish Labour. When Lamont talked of her despair at Scottish Labour being treated as a branch office, she hit close to home with all Scottish voters. London-centric politics is killing the main parties in Scotland and will take Labour down leaving the SNP the last man standing.

The moment Tony Blair’s name became sacrilegious in my household growing up was when he abandoned Clause IV. With Murphy using the language of the Clause, he is clearly trying to evoke memories of that kind of reform within the party and the wave of electoral success that brought with it. A rehashed statement of intent for Scotland is an attempt to move Labour into a ‘reformer’ platform.

However what Scottish voters liked about Salmond and continue to appreciate in Sturgeon is their lack of political machinery.

Where Murphy will struggle, and where his use of Blairite language displays a complete lack of understanding, is that he is viewed as the worst kind of career politician. He is straight out of Westminster. He has bounced from education, to the National Union of Students presidency, to think tanks and policy groups and now parliament. He has always seen Scotland through Labour eyes.

If Labour is ever to win a majority again they are going to need to gain Scotland back. The SNP are a much greater threat to the Labour party than UKIP are to anyone, they are doing a much more successful job of converting anti-Westminster sentiment into seats than any other British party.

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