Got something to say? Contribute content to grassroots@labour-uncut.co.uk

The leadership candidates aren’t asking any of the big questions, let alone answering them

29/07/2015, 04:54:58 PM

by Patrick Hurley and James Noakes

Over the last few weeks, we’ve watched with mounting horror at the farce that the Labour leadership contest has become. We know we’re not alone in this.

But we despair not just because of who is or isn’t in the race, the (yet again) flawed tortuous process or the ridiculous behaviour of some supporters of all candidates. No, our despair is primarily because none of the candidates for the leadership seem remotely capable of setting out a truly radical centre-left agenda for the way we live now.

Corbyn may want to talk about the issues but he doesn’t want to face up to the present day context (too many of his supporters class centre-left as Tory anyway it seems), Cooper and Burnham, solid performers both, are not setting the world alight. A defence of tax credits and commitments on NHS supply chains might be all well and good, but they hardly get the blood racing. Liz Kendall could be on to something with her focus on raising early years funding rather than subsidising university students, but in all honesty, the gruel is thin all round.

Much like the past five years, too often we are faced with tactics rather than strategy – the candidates seem too keen on reacting to events rather than in giving the party some actual leadership. Some may say this is inevitable perhaps given such a public process; a voracious, hostile media; and a PLP leadership vacuum facing buoyed Tory benches. However, that is not good enough for any candidate. Moreover, this appears to be the best that the Parliamentary party has to offer.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour must be more than technocrats. The challenge is to lift Britain out of its moral depression

17/07/2015, 03:37:48 PM

by Gordon Lynch

A common observation about the Labour leadership contest this summer is that the candidates, for all their relative strengths, have not yet succeeded in providing a compelling vision of our country’s future and the role of the Labour party within it.

Where this wider debate has begun to open up it has been primarily in terms of differing positions towards deficit reduction and austerity. But whilst Labour’s ability to provide a credible economic plan for Britain’s future is undoubtedly the threshold that must be met for it to be taken seriously by the electorate, it is not sufficient to provide a powerful vision of our collective future. Nor does a focus on the failings of Labour’s last general election campaign provide a sufficient analysis of the depth of electoral disillusionment with progressive politics at the moment.

The roots of this disillusionment do not lie simply in the public blaming Labour for the current financial deficit. It lies in a moral depression which began before the financial one.

Since the relative euphoria of Labour’s electoral success in 1997, there have been three significant moral traumas in which public confidence in progressive politics has been deeply damaged. The first was the decision of Tony Blair’s government, with strong Conservative support, to engage in the 2003 Iraq War against unprecedented popular opposition. The party that had won in 1997 by articulating the public’s moral aspirations betrayed this six years later when it embarked on a war that was so deeply at odds with the ethical foreign policy that it initially espoused. The fact that the 2003 war set in motion a chain of events that has now led to the horrors of the rise of ISIS only perpetuates a residual sense of despair at such a fundamental failure of Britain’s political institutions to respect the moral convictions of its people.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Would Corbyn really lead us back into the political wilderness?

17/07/2015, 11:19:35 AM

by Brian Back

Let me make this clear from the start; I am backing Liz Kendall for the leadership of the Labour Party. I believe that she has the vision, the strength, the passion, conviction and charisma that we require in a leader, if we want to be successful.

When I read that Jeremy Corbyn was ahead in the polls, I was understandably dismayed. However, my dismay came; not at the thought of Corbyn leading the party, but at the thought of how members of the party would react to this news.

I was right to be dismayed, as various explanations of how Corbyn would be a disaster for the party soon surfaced and the predictable spats on social media dutifully followed. This has clearly demonstrated to me, that the biggest danger we face within the party, is not the issue of going too far to the left, right, or centre, but the problem of disunity.

It is division, rather than political position, which should be our primary concern.

All Labour members must remember we are defined much more by what unites us, than what divides us. We all want the same thing- a fairer society; only our methods for achieving this differ.

As long as we are guided by the values and principles we profess to hold- those of fairness, equality and democracy, then any of the candidates should be able to do a decent job of leading the party.

Every one of the candidates has grown and bloomed, because of the demands of the leadership contest and they have all shown themselves to be very worthy of our support.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

What happens when you ask normal voters what they think of the Labour leadership candidates?

16/07/2015, 05:38:05 PM

by Karen Bruce

On Saturday while many Labour members in Yorkshire were at the leadership hustings in Leeds I was with my ward colleague Cllr David Nagle running our local Labour party stall at the Rothwell carnival.

It’s a great opportunity to be seen by hundreds of local people and to chat with them about local issues. This year we decided to ask them two questions. The first was a specific local issue about how to spend £180,000 of ‘Section 106’ money from housing developers that has to be spent on environmental and greenspace projects. The second was to listen to what they thought about the four Labour leadership candidates.

To make it a bit more fun we had buckets with each leadership candidate’s picture on and lots of coloured balls so people could put one in their choice of candidate’s bucket.

We also created a one-page profile on each candidate so people could read and find out a little bit more about them. I’d originally wanted to put a 35 word statement from each candidate saying why Rothwell people should vote for them. I tweeted all four campaigns at 10:25 on Friday morning, but unfortunately only Andy’s campaign replied so we had to create the profiles ourselves.

The first paragraph of the profile was about their personal history – where they came from and what they did before they entered politics. The second paragraph detailed their experience in parliament and government. Both of these were taken from information on each candidate’s website and Wikipedia. The third paragraph was from their websites and was quotes about what they stood for and believed in.

Both of our questions sparked quite a bit of interest. The photos of the candidates on our buckets certainly made people look to see what we were doing. The results were interesting.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

All Labour members should watch the Wilderness Years, particularly those thinking about voting for Jeremy Corbyn

15/07/2015, 06:21:14 PM

by Frederick Cowell

In late 1995 the BBC produced an incredible four-part documentary entitled Labour the Wilderness Years. All Labour party members should watch it, particularly if the party is contemplating electing Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

What makes it an astonishing documentary is that by 1995 the Tory government were exploding – in the summer of that year Major had infamously resigned and fought and leadership battle with John Redwood as the Conservative parliamentary party fell apart. Off the record briefings given to Hugo Young between 1995 and 1996 showed that top ministers knew that a Labour party led by Tony Blair was about to annihilate them. Yet this documentary was produced and it told in excruciating detail Labour’s long civil war after its 1979 defeat. What makes it wonderful is that is a documentary told without out the subsequent teleology of Blair and his victories. This makes it the most vital piece of political introspection ever produced.

Listen to Roy Hattersley’s doom laden assessment of the period after 1979 – “for a number of years the Labour party was in opposition to itself” – and you get a sense of just how disastrous things became. The divisions were so bitter during those years that the party ceased to be a meaningful force in British politics.

It is Peter Shore’s assessment at the start of the first episode, that the Labour party must take “responsibility for its own failure” and he was clear that Thatcher and Thatcherism, was a result of the Labour party being ridiculous. This is perhaps the most damning verdict. Shore was a veteran left-winger but even he could see that the endless internecine warfare had created a world where Thatcher was free to win election after election by essentially being the only meaningful political choice on offer. As Hattersley continued, “we must feel some guilt” about not coming to the assistance of the most disadvantaged in society.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The media cynics are wrong. This leadership contest is energising the party

09/07/2015, 07:49:37 PM

by Brian Back

Many commentators in the media have questioned the wisdom of holding a leadership contest so soon after the election defeat, claiming there is no point having a leadership contest, without first undergoing a thorough analysis of the reasons for the defeat.

Some commentators have gone even further; claiming that not only is there no point in the leadership contest, there is no point in the Labour party, as the election result showed that Labour has lost its way; lost its purpose, its identity, its core supporters and its relevance.

The leadership hustings in Cardiff proved all those commentators wrong.

Whilst the election result was undoubtedly a huge blow, the hustings showed that Winston Churchill’s advice; to “never let a good crisis go to waste”, has been taken to heart by the Labour party.

Coming off the back of an election defeat, the leadership contest has forced us to really think about what our party stands for.

The contest has brought a huge response from party members; at meetings, hustings and on social media sites. Members have very clearly shown that they are not lacking in vision or purpose.

Party members know why they joined the Labour party; they are unwavering in their belief and are demanding that their representatives in parliament demonstrate the same levels of conviction and commitment.

This has forced the candidates to clearly define their vision of the Labour party; what it is, and what it should be. Under the fierce scrutiny of dedicated, and at times, angry party members, the candidates have been held to account; forced to prove their values and their worth; to prove their right to vie for the leadership of the party.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

For Labour to win again we need Tory switchers. Only Liz Kendall can reach them

08/07/2015, 09:31:29 AM

by Cameron Beavan-King, Jake Pitt and Sam Foulder-Hughes

For those who spent time on the doorstep relentlessly trying to win voters round, it probably doesn’t need to be said that the 7th of May was a bit of a tough night. In Labour’s key seats, the results were mixed and often random; we failed to win North Warwickshire, which had a Tory majority of 54, whilst Wes Streeting managed to overturn an 8,000 majority in Ilford North. In some seats we even went backwards, notably in Morley and Outwood, but also in our southern strongholds in Southampton and Plymouth which went from red to blue.

Having campaigned in seats in the West Midlands, London and the South East, we know the great challenges that face the party in winning back trust on the economy, reaching out to voters aspirations and more broadly just seeming fit for government. It’s not an issue we seek to, or could, address wholly in one opinion piece, however the direction Labour needs to head in to win in 2020 is clear. Liz Kendall is the candidate who offers by far the best chance of returning to power in five years time.

Most elections in European democracies are still decided by the Bill Clinton rule, that “it’s the economy, stupid” and so the party with the most coherent and positive vision will almost always win. The party campaigned on a variety of important issues, such as abolishing the cruel bedroom tax. However we forgot the silent majority of British people who aren’t in dire poverty but aren’t rich either, who pays their tax and work hard. These are the ‘shy Tories’ we have to bring back in order to build a winning coalition once again like Tony Blair did in in three successive elections.

For many ‘aspiration’ is a political buzz word, but for families it is about reaching their potential and doing best by those who rely on them. It can’t be understated how important is for our party to embrace, with no ifs or buts, the working and middle class families who simply want to get on and do well for themselves. The last Labour government and the coalition relied on centrally run public services to achieve social change far too much, without realising how unaccountable they are to local people.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

‘Blairite’ might be an insult but only his politics will get Labour back into power

03/07/2015, 09:16:55 AM

by Brian Back

The Labour party has always fought for equal treatment, and against prejudice and discrimination, but, in their desperation to steer the party in a certain direction, and get their favoured leadership candidate elected; many party members are now betraying their own ideals and values.

Those on the left continually decry the prejudicial stereotyping of people; such as those who rely on benefits, who are universally labelled as ‘scroungers’ or cheats’. We hate the lack of opportunities available for young black men; who are labelled as criminals, gangsters, thugs and muggers, harassed by the police and discriminated against by educators, employers and politicians. We favour positive discrimination in our candidate selection procedures, as a way to address gender-bias and the under-representation of women in politics.

Equality and fairness is our rallying cry, but we are failing to practice what we preach.

We have created a negative stereotype regarding one group within our Party. We have turned them into the ‘Other’ and the unwelcome outsider, tarring them all with the same brush, failing to treat them as individuals who deserve to be judged on their own actions and merits.

The group I am talking about; is ‘Blairites’.

‘Blairite’ has now become an insult, or term of abuse.

The term ‘Blairite’, now has incredibly negative connotations attached to it, with anyone labelled as such, somehow seen as ‘not really Labour’, or even a traitor to the cause.

Blairites are castigated for the desire to take Labour onto the centre-ground, therefore supposedly abandoning left-wing values, ideals and aims. In short, Blairites are criticised for compromising; for making deals with ‘the enemy’.

Those who criticise Blairites for this are forgetting the fundamental axiom of politics: the entire point and goal of politics is compromise– to reach agreement between different factions and interests, so as to come to some kind of ‘middle-ground’ that all can accept and agree with.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour can avoid a rerun of the wilderness years, but only if it modernises

26/06/2015, 05:54:25 PM

by Gareth Williams

Possibly the only redeeming feature of the Ed Stone is that it provides an apt metaphor for the Old Testament level of righteous anger Labour activists should feel. The fact that greater efforts were expended by party elites on debating what to do with the 8ft monstrosity in the event of a defeat than on what they could do to avert one, speaks volumes.

There are of course fundamental differences between the exodus from Egypt and the party’s utterly unnecessary exodus from electability. Labour will have faced 10 years in the political wilderness by 2020, rather than 40 in its literal equivalent. In the meantime, members and activists should channel everything towards preventing a slow-motion rerun of the election train wreck.

Decisions made over the next few months have incredibly serious implications not only for 2020 but 2025 and 2030. The party must make the right calls right now.

The independent variable remains the leader. A leadership candidate who describes the manifesto which took the party to its worst defeat in a generation as one of its best should give anyone who truly wants a Labour PM on the steps of Downing Street in May 2020 pause.

Perceptions early on matter. The factory preset Tory attack will be to treat every Labour leader as Lenin incarnate; we can ill afford giving them further reasons to. Tony Blair won on a platform pledging a minimum wage and a windfall tax on energy company profits – both sizable interventions in the economy – largely due to the political capital he had accrued from Clause IV and the wider modernisation project.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The unwanted dinner guest: why Corbyn is bad news for Labour

16/06/2015, 10:40:42 AM

by Kenny Stevenson

We’ve all been there. The family functions with that one relative who can’t handle a drink. The staff parties where the co-worker everyone hates turns up. The pub trips with friends where a killjoy won’t stay out past 12.

The clan or team or squad often run preceding debates centred on the question:  should we invite them? But the Yes side – a coalition of the accused’s counsel and do-gooders too nice to defy the whip – always wins. Nothing ever changes. All post-party analyses are the same – we won’t invite them next time. And so the shit-night-out cycle continues.

So on Monday, when MPs acquiesced and invited Jeremy Corbyn to take a place on the leadership ballot, Labour’s refusal to repel the party’s far-left dragged on.

It took them to the final moments, but Yes to Corbyn managed to muster an alliance to get their man on the panel. Corbyn is not without ardent backers. Owen Jones, the most popular left-wing blogger in the country, backs him and argued a Corbyn-free ballot would have denied the party and country ‘a genuine debate’. He also enjoys enthusiastic support among his peers – Dennis Skinner and Diane Abbott among the most prolific.

But there were also plenty of do-gooders like Sadiq Khan, Emily Thornberry and David Lammy who could not bring themselves exclude Corbyn, despite having no intention of supporting his leadership bid.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon