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Miliband could have a legacy even if Labour lose

17/04/2015, 08:04:26 PM

by David Ward

Most people don’t realise that the guy who invented the computer was a bloke called Tommy Flowers who worked for the Post Office.

Sure Turing made some logic sketches, but it was Flowers who designed and  actually built the machine that broke the German codes. After the war he thought there might be something in it. He wasn’t allowed to say he’d built one before but he took his idea to British banks for funding to build another one. Of course they laughed him out of the office, the Americans took over the industry and the rest is history.

I mention this story because it shows big ideas can quickly become bigger than their creators, and I think Ed Miliband could be on the verge of a big change too.

It’s not exactly news that the post-Thatcher consensus is coming to an end. You only need to look at the fracturing of politics a la the late 1970s to see that the predominant mood out there is uncertainty.

As we know, the entire case Ed has been making since 2010 is that the left doesn’t have to accept rampant capitalism on its own terms. We don’t have to accept that those at the top should reap unsustainable rewards. We don’t have to accept that markets and big corporations can’t be reformed so society and employees benefit too. And we don’t have to accept that people in work still don’t earn enough to live on.

That’s been the pitch. It’s seen him derided in many quarters – even in his own party on occasion. In any normal circumstance Labour should be expecting a chastening during this campaign.

But the funny thing is it hasn’t quite happened. It’s taken a few years of sharpening to get the pitch right but Labour’s message is beginning to cut through. Take a look at this Ipsos Mori published a word cloud of the issues that people have remembered from the last few days. Since the first few debates Ed’s approval ratings have improved markedly.

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What if the conservatives move…left?

10/04/2015, 06:30:18 PM

by Joe Reddington

Let us consider the popular (and backed by the data) narrative.  Large numbers of former conservative voters are ‘defecting’ to UKIP, which they believe better represents their views.  UKIPs policies are somewhat significantly to the right of the conservatives, even if there is a perception difference, and it is clear from the polling data that it’s a certain type of conservative that is switching.

The average conservative voter in 2015 is younger, more urban, less likely to own a house, more likely to be non-white, and more likely to have a degree than the average conservative voter of 2010 (see here, p15).  We can then infer that they are also less pension-obsessed, more much likely to be pro-(at least neutral on) Europe, much more likely to favour things like equal rights to marriage, adoption and social care than the average conservative voter of 2010.

Now answer this.  Given the group that is *leaving* the Conservative party, who are the remainder? We see that the Conservative leadership has lurched somewhat to the right in an attempt (and it may be working to a small extent) to stop the bleeding.  But it remains to see what happens if it becomes clear that those voters are staying with UKIP.  The thought that should be keeping Labour strategists up at night is this: what if the new Conservatives listen to their thinned down membership and move left?

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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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