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We need economic policies for 2020. Not 2008

02/09/2015, 07:42:03 PM

by Michael Pavey

The story of the last Parliament was the Tory-led government crushing a nascent economic recovery and condemning the country to five years of misery through austerity – but successfully convincing the public that it was all Labour’s fault.

In no small part this is because immediately after the 2010 election, Labour indulged in a prolonged and self-absorbed leadership contest. Instead of defending our economic legacy, we bickered amongst ourselves and allowed the Tories to badge us as spendthrift deficit-deniers who caused the financial crash. We never shook off the damage of those early months.

Now we are making exactly the same mistake. Instead of developing persuasive economic policies which people understand and relate to, we are focusing on the fantasy that is Corbynomics. I have absolutely no problem with Jeremy Corbyn – but Corbynomics is the polar opposite of what we need. Not because it’s scary and left-wing, but because it will have less and less relevance to people’s lives as the next general election approaches.

The cornerstone of Corbynomics, “Quantitative Easing for the people”, is a triumph of hindsight over commonsense. It’s what we should have done in 2008. But the unique circumstances which created that moment no longer apply. When the whole financial system stood on the brink of meltdown, we should have set a much broader definition of the public good than simply protecting current accounts to keep ATMs flowing. At the same time as saving the banks, we should have had a strategy which also protected jobs, livelihoods and public services from the impact of a prolonged recession.

But to say we should have done this in 2008 doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do now. 2008 was a unique moment, both economically and politically. An unprecedented meltdown triggered an equally unprecedented clamour for political intervention. Hindsight shows that the steps taken were far from perfect, but this was a time of genuine fear when no-one knew what was happening – so Gordon Brown deserves full credit for averting something far worse.

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We need a recall vote on the leader before the next election

28/08/2015, 11:40:50 AM

by Trevor Fisher

Early in the Labour leadership campaign, the idea of a recall election was floated. The Newsnight discussion involving all four candidates on June 17th discussed the idea without much depth but did suggest the mechanisms already existed.

The issue has gone off the agenda but it is time to renew the debate, before the election result is announced. It is already being suggested that if the wrong candidate is elected then there will be parliamentary plots. But the issue is for the party, not the MPs. A recall should be accepted practice, whoever comes out on top in September.

The current system without automatic recall, allowing a leader an indefinite period up to an election – and perhaps beyond – is absurd. Currently a leader can last for an open period until they decide to resign, thus Attlee lasted for twenty years on the basis of having won the leadership in a PLP vote, only resigning after two election defeats.

It is a worth considering what would have happened if Blair had not volunteered to stand down after the 2005 election – I suspect he would be there today. It has been 80 years since the Labour party last removed a leader, George Lansbury, in 1935. Unlike the Tory party, Labour does not remove unsuccessful leaders.

The problem currently staring Labour in the face is that it has to win voters over in a hostile climate, which has been the case since 2010. Giving Ed Miliband the whole of a four year eight month period was a mistake, which will be repeated this autumn if there is no recall strategy.

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Labour’s in a mess because the soft left has disappeared

20/08/2015, 06:03:58 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The Labour leadership election is becoming a gift to the Tories, because of the Corbyn surge. The politics of Corbyn now dominating the agenda has revived talk of the soft left, which commentators including Luke Akehurst think is capable of intervening. Dan Hodges in The Daily Telegraph, rightly bemoaning the disastrous new electoral system, commented that “pragmods” wanted the current individualised membership plus “many elements on the soft left of Labour.” Pragmods may be right, but where the elements of the soft left are, is another matter.

As someone active in the Labour Coordinating Committee (LCC), the main soft left group in the 1980s, I can endorse what Luke Akehurst says about its grassroots effectiveness in tackling the hard left and shifting the national agenda. But the successor organisations are now dead, except for Compass which is now outside the Labour Party orbit.  Luke Akehurst wants to bring the remnants of the soft left into action, Dan Hodges believes they already are. So something needs to be said about the soft left and whether it has any role to play in the current drama.

As Akehurst has said, the soft left of the eighties had much policy agreement with the hard left. But there were at least two major differences.

Firstly, the soft left did not believe the barrier to political progress was the party establishment. Though there were sharp differences with the leadership through to 1983, the real problems to advance were seen as the Tory party and the deep roots in popular culture the Tories had and still have. From this, the second big difference was the soft left wanted to work with the leadership, the hard left to replace it.

It is sometimes said the hard left do not want power. They certainly do. In the eighties they controlled a number of local councils. But they did not want compromise. They shared with the far left the desire for purity, but unlike the far left Trotskyists’ sects, the hard left did want elected position.

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Labour can be a movement again under Jeremy Corbyn

18/08/2015, 10:50:40 PM

by Jon Bounds

Despite derision from all corners of the media, and anger from the only corner of the Labour party that the media listens to, Jeremy Corbyn has been attracting crowds most politicians and even most pop stars can only dream about.

We live in a small town in Oxfordshire — Cameron country — where Labour are a distant third in all elections, and the Conservative social club is a signposted landmark and a social hub. My wife Libby is never one to shy away from a political discussion, despite being the daughter of a sometime Liberal Democrat councillor. At least once she has stopped to engage those having a fag outside ‘the Con club’ as it’s known and asked them their opinions on matters of the day.

Most of the time it happens with more respect and decorum than PMQs, even though, leaving aside the Chancellor, participants in these impromptu street exchanges are likely to be more intoxicated.

But do you know what? These proud Tories haven’t got a clue what is going on: they have no inkling that there has even been a Health and Social Care Act, let alone what  its impacts are. But these are the people, working class in the true economic sense and ‘aspirational’ — if that means that they are happy to work hard, desire have nice things and want look after their families and friends — and most of all they are the people that we have been told that the Labour party needs to win over in 2020.

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Jeremy Corbyn is energising politics

16/08/2015, 10:41:24 PM

by Brian Back

After hearing so much about it, I finally witnessed the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon for myself, at a meeting in Cardiff. And, believe me; phenomenon is the right word.

I have previously attended meetings in Cardiff with both Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham, which had audiences of up to around 300 people.

Corbyn’s meeting had over a thousand, with all seats taken and almost as many squeezed in, standing at the back, as were sitting down.

The audiences for the other candidates were polite, respectful and interested.

Corbyn’s audience was passionate and enthusiastic, at times bordering on fanatical. When Corbyn walked onto the stage, the whole crowd rose to its feet; whooping, cheering, clapping and shouting- giving him the kind of welcome normally reserved for rock stars. His speech was interrupted after every sentence, by the crowd cheering and applauding his statements, in the same way that they would cheer for their favourite song played by their favourite band at a concert or festival.

It was fascinating and amazing to watch.

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Corbynism has already claimed its first major victim: Andy Burnham

12/08/2015, 11:11:09 AM

by Frazer Loveman

It all looked to be so easy didn’t it? After the non-entry of Dan Jarvis and the non-start of Chuka Umunna’s campaign, only Yvette Cooper seemed to stand between Andy Burnham and the leadership of the Labour party. Burnham was probably the more well-known of the two, a politician who oozed humility and understanding.

People knew him for his admirable opposition to NHS re-structuring under Messers Lansley and Hunt and for his work in the Hillsborough campaign. He was also the best positioned to win. Cooper was likely to lose some support to Liz Kendall on the right of the party whilst Burnham had positioned himself to have clear run at the left of the party, whilst still being able to exist on the soft-left. He may have been something of continuity Miliband, but he was slightly more human than Miliband, and also probably more pragmatic.

The forced entry of Jeremy Corbyn into the race, however, has changed all that. Suddenly the leftist bloc vote that Burnham had been presuming would just fall into his camp had an alternative, but no worry, Burnham would still be in a strong position once he picked up Corbyn’s second preferences. However, Corbyn has turned out to be more than just an ‘alternative’ he’s morphed into a bizzare Marxist messiah. With members pledging themselves to the church of Corbyn to the extent that polling by YouGov now shows him to be the clear favourite in the contest, the other three candidates are now in the last chance saloon in terms of stopping the Corbyn tide.

Kendall has responded to Corbyn by doubling down on her position that Labour needs to be a fiscally responsible party in order to win elections, out of all the candidates she is the one who has done the most to challenge Corbyn head-on, and this has led to her being favourite to finish plum last. Cooper had been far more pragmatic. Though she has said that she wouldn’t serve under Corbyn she has been more civil in dismissing him, partly as her camp believed that she could still beat Corbyn on second preferences. Though in recent days even she has been forced into pointing out the flaws in Corbyn’s campaign; accusing him of trying to drag Labour back to the 1970s.

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If Jeremy Corbyn wins, we need to make it work

07/08/2015, 09:43:54 PM

by Brian Back

Let’s face it: with so little time left before members vote for a new leader, it is time that we stopped the shouting, insults and dire forecasts for the future.

It is time to face the facts.

It is time that we took a calm, pragmatic view of the possibility of a Corbyn win. Whilst we should not stop campaigning for the other candidates, we have to face the fact that a Corbyn win is a real possibility. That being the case, how should we deal with this prospect?

So far, everyone seems to be asking the wrong questions regarding the possibility of Corbyn becoming the new Labour leader.

Some have asked whether those in the centre-ground of the Labour party should split, and start a new party, if Corbyn wins. That is not a sensible question, because forming a new party would just split the left-wing vote, thereby guaranteeing a Tory win at the next election. Also, most members would stay with the Corbyn-led Labour party, as would the unions, so the new party would have few members or activists, and very little funding, as well as a very short life-span.

Others have asked whether the centre-ground MPs should stage a coup and force another election contest. This is not sensible either, as disunity and conflict are the biggest problems we face; problems which, if not dealt with, always spell electoral disaster, and a coup would only make things much worse. Furthermore, the next contest would probably be won by Corbyn again, but with a bigger majority, as Labour members react with fury against MPs who are seen to ignore members’ wishes.

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The idea that Jeremy Corbyn laid the foundations for peace in Northern Ireland is total fantasy

07/08/2015, 05:32:36 PM

by Anthony Breach

The other day I was informed that, along with every other person from Northern Ireland, I was wrong about the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Irish peace process. Rather than being the product of improbable, bewildering, and exhausting negotiations between at least five different parties, it was actually Jeremy Corbyn who “set up peace in Northern Ireland”. This was though I’d never heard any other Northern Irish person before last month utter Corbyn’s name in gratitude, anger, or even at all.

I was directed to an interview with Corbyn (relevant clip) where, along with mentioning his commendable work on the Birmingham Six and some dubious comments on Irish history generally, Corbyn says:

“During the 1980s… we built up regular contacts with Sinn Fein, we were condemned by our own Party Leadership for so doing… and we were proven to be right. In the end, even Margaret Thatcher recognised that there had to be some kind of political settlement in Ireland, that militarily it wasn’t going to be possible, and eventually this became the Good Friday Agreement after the 1997 election.”

How this became “Corbyn set up peace in Northern Ireland” in his supporter’s understanding remains unclear. He is however not the only one to believe this – surprisingly many people are under the impression that Corbyn’s involvement in Northern Irish politics has been not only significant but beneficial.

Corbyn himself makes a politically magical leap from Thatcher’s change in policy and the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, but he does at least avoid claiming outright that his talks were the basis for the Agreement, unlike Owen Jones and other Corbyn supporters.

This was however all before a frankly bizarre interview Corbyn conducted with BBC Radio Ulster where, as the leading candidate for the Labour leadership and our potential offer of Prime Minister to the British people, Corbyn five times refused to explicitly condemn the IRA and equated the British army with a non-state terrorist organisation that murdered British civilians as a matter of policy.

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Corbyn at the Adelphi: Vintage 80s nostalgia that would deliver a vintage 80s Labour result

05/08/2015, 07:25:57 PM

by Richard Scorer

Liverpool, Saturday evening: 1100 people cram into the Adelphi ballroom to hear Jeremy Corbyn. My political identification is old Labour right, and I’m probably voting for Liz Kendall, but my Scouse in-laws are Corbyn supporters and invited me along. It was a good opportunity to see what a  Labour party led by Corbyn might look like.

First, the warm up acts, starting with the Liverpool Socialist Singers. The compere jokingly asked if anyone present wanted to sing the national anthem. This having elicited the intended booing, we were all invited to join in singing the Internationale. An interesting choice, I thought. The Internationale, not The Red Flag; at this rally, even traditional English socialism is seen as too tame .  Then we moved on to the speakers. The quality of oratory was high, the content unrepentedly hard left. The leader of the Bakers Union called for a general strike: wild applause. Paula from Unison quoted Blair’s “heart transplant” comment. Her answer to Blair:  “my arse”. It was amusing, and Paula was a powerful speaker.

Then Jeremy himself. He comes across as palpably decent, but with a touch of naivety, just like Tony Benn (who, you’ll remember, got through an entire interview with Ali G without realising that he was a fictional character). His themes were anti-austerity, anti-welfare bill and anti-war.

Austerity was never quite defined. I think in Corbyn’s mind it means any cut in public expenditure, unless it’s cutting spending on something he sees as bad, like defence. Corbyn sort of implied his economic programme has been costed: subject to bit more work by the guys in his policy team, the abolition of tuition fees would be fully paid for by an 0.2% increase in corporation tax. But really, he doesn’t think that costing a programme is necessary, because you can borrow more: “debt is now only 80% of GDP. Under the Attlee government it was 250% of GDP. And they still increased public spending, and so can we”.

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Labour is being consumed by Corbynista, ultra-left micro-sects

03/08/2015, 08:44:15 PM

by Nick Small

On Saturday I met Green party Leader Natalie Bennett at Liverpool Pride.  She was with the party’s parliamentary candidate for Liverpool Riverside.  Also with them was one of their local election candidates, who’s recently registered as a Labour Party supporter.  I said to her that I’d assumed she’d left the Green party, as I’d seen her name as a registered Labour supporter.  She replied, in front of Natalie Bennett, that she was still a Green Party member and supporter but had registered as a Labour supporter just to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

“I was a Labour voter for 30 years,” she said, “and I support Labour’s values.”

“But what about the bit about not being a supporter of any organisation opposed to the Labour Party?”, I asked.

“Erm…”, was the response.

“Natalie, ” I said, “Is this allowed under Green party rules?  Surely if you sign up to this, you’d be ineligible to stay a Green party member?”

Natalie replied in that familiar, refreshing manner I’d got to know so well from the televised debates, “It’s not something we’d recommend, but if someone wants to perjure themselves…”

On Saturday evening Jeremy Corbyn held a rally in Liverpool.  It was chaired by a man called Alec McFadden, ex-IMG, ex-Socialist Action, ex-No2EU, who’s stood against many a Labour candidate over the years.  McFadden announced to the rally that he’s applied to be a registered supporter.  Another prominent speaker at the rally was Tony Mulhearn, one of the 47 surcharged Liverpool councillors, expelled from the party 30 years ago, who’s now a leading light of TUSC.  He’s holding off rejoining, until Jeremy wins.

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