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‘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.

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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.

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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.

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If Labour wants to win in the south, it needs Ben Bradshaw on the ticket

15/06/2015, 10:18:29 PM

by Frazer Loveman

If you take the electoral map of Britain and draw a line south of Birmingham, the picture for Labour is very bleak in the south of England. Outside of a neat pocket of red in London, there is an overwhelming sea of blue with only the occasional red spot in the other southern cities.

Obviously, the rural south has never been a Labour stronghold- even in the boom years of Blair the map is overwhelmingly blue once you get south of the midlands- but should Labour ever want to get back into power they will have to make headway in places such as Basingstoke and Plymouth which have now been overrun in the tide of Tory blue.

At PMQs last Wednesday, David Cameron was asked a question by Dr. Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test. The question itself was regarding care for the elderly and Cameron largely ignored it to make the jibe that Dr. Whitehead was a rare thing “a Labour MP in the south of England”.

It met with much delight on the government benches, and to be honest I’d normally dismiss that sort of thing out of hand when watching PMQs, but this time it particularly struck me as I actually voted for Dr. Whitehead. It is becoming apparent that for the Labour Party to ever see electoral success again it will need to shift out of what Tony Blair called its electoral “comfort zone.”

Now, it seems to be taboo to even mention Blair in the Labour party any more, despite the fact that he was the most successful leader in the party’s history. Ed Miliband seemed to go to great lengths in order to distance himself from the New Labour years as if Blair was some sort of electoral Banquo’s ghost who would haunt him and the Labour party at every turn.

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Andy Burnham’s wrong. Not only must Labour take part in the cross-party pro-EU campaign, it has to lead it

12/06/2015, 06:43:36 PM

by Dan Cooke

The first real public test for Labour’s new leader is likely to be fighting a battle they didn’t want to fight at all, at a time and in circumstances dictated by their main opponent, and within the straight-jacket that they must support the basic position of that opponent.

This conundrum is, of course, the EU referendum, to be called by David Cameron to endorse his renegotiation based on principles he has still not fully revealed.

Cameron’s ideal scenario for this campaign is obvious: to achieve a settlement that will redeem the EU for all but its most zealous detractors and credit him as the PM who settled Britain’s relationship with Europe.

And his game plan for referendum victory is equally obvious: to assert that a good deal for Britain has been secured, regardless of what his renegotiation actually does, or does not, achieve.

Apart from campaigning to leave as a result of admitted negotiating failure (inconceivable), or declaring that the relationship was fine all along and serious renegotiation was actually unnecessary (even more inconceivable), there is no other option. The Conservative “Yes” campaign could just as well start printing their posters right now.

For Labour the approach to the campaign is far less straightforward.

For a party that declared until recently that there was no need for a referendum, it would be illogical to link support for a “Yes” vote to the outcome of this renegotiation. Labour cannot go along with the inevitable Cameron spin that he has fixed a fundamentally broken relationship.  Labour is committed to “Yes” regardless and must make a case for the EU that goes above and beyond the expected Tory tinkering.

Indeed, alongside this commitment to staying in the EU, Labour will naturally reserve the right to call Cameron out if his renegotiation does not match up to the hype, and make hay from the divisions within the Tory tribe that are already starting and only likely to become more chronic as the negotiation progresses.

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Conservative voters aren’t evil. They aren’t bad people. We need to listen to why they rejected us

31/05/2015, 09:28:17 PM

by Tom Clements

I hate anecdotes. I hate how people from all parts of the political spectrum use them to highlight their arguments. I hated how Jeremy Paxman used one to eviscerate Ed’s apparent weakness on foreign policy.

But here’s mine.

One of my closest friends was talking to me about Labour’s defeat. He is a stereotypical Labour-Tory swing voter. Wanting social justice but also wanting to do well for himself. He asked me what we offered people in his position. People who aren’t super rich but are, god willing, never going to experience the hardship of food banks or the benefits trap.

He voted Conservative because we had nothing to say to him.

If you were me you might have accused him of being selfish and argued that he should want the same opportunities for the next generation. You might have screamed at him about his inability to see the bigger picture for our society. You might have appealed to his compassion for the working people forced to choose between heating and eating.

But you would have been wrong.

Not that your ideas were wrong or that these aren’t very real concerns that our party should be attempting to tackle. But it is the wrong argument to make.

Of course people don’t want to see the number of food banks increasing or hear stories of the latest inhumane example of a vulnerable victim of the Bedroom Tax. However, they want to be certain that their living standards are going to be protected first.

The voters in England had a choice between a safety first Conservative government, albeit with obvious problems; or a Labour party that was prepared to risk the house on the gamble that Britain wanted a return to Keynes. They made their choice. We ran an election on a message of family finances and the simple truth is that people didn’t trust us with theirs.

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We need a truly proportional voting system

26/05/2015, 02:56:34 PM

by Reg Barritt

The outcome of the 2015 general election has placed the first past the post system of election of MPs to Westminster and local councils under greater scrutiny than ever.

Use of First Past the Post for both local and general elections now stands stripped of its main justification: delivering strong government, representative of the wishes of the electorate.

A great deal has been made of the claimed overwhelming victory of the Conservative party and the so called devastating loss suffered by the Labour party (a false interpretation by our media that even the parties themselves have been far too quick to buy into).

In fact, the swing in seats was influenced by relatively small shifts in votes in relatively few constituencies, only further skewed by the distortions of an unrepresentative election result in Scotland.

The time has come for change.

At this point in a discussion, the result of the AV referendum is often raised by opponents of electoral reform.

But AV is not a PR system and was never going to be what the people would want instead of First Past the Post.

As the facts of pluralist politics become harder to ignore the debate rightly turns to how to respond.

The answer lies with the Single Transferable Vote.

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Labour urgently needs a new narrative on the economy

20/05/2015, 11:15:22 PM

by Dan Cooke

One thing we learned in the election campaign was that the younger Ed Miliband, while apparently much in demand, was a lousy date who “only wanted to talk about economics”. We also learned something much more serious: the mature Miliband and his advisers were completely wrong to think Labour could win an election without talking about the economy.

The Tory narrative on the economy, before and during the campaign, was so clear and powerful that friend or foe could recite it in their sleep. They had a “long-term economic plan”, that got the economy “back on track” after Labour “crashed the economy” and the “money ran out”. This account of the recent past provided powerful rhetorical support to their forward offer of prosperity for all, including more investment in the NHS than Labour promised.

If this grates with unfairness to many of us, we have to bluntly ask:  did our party ever pose a counter-narrative to challenge this one?  The frank answer is – at least during the campaign – clearly no. The line to take, when it was put to Labour spokespeople that the Tory plan was working, was apparently  to say that the recovery was not felt by all, the proceeds of growth were unevenly distributed or, more abstractly, that the economy was run for the benefit of the rich and not ordinary people.

Unfortunately these were talking points only to avoid talking about what for most people is the central question of economic debate: who can be trusted to deliver growth and jobs. It sounded as though we were saying this did not matter because it was the “wrong growth” and the “wrong jobs”. By building a campaign around issues of how to regulate a successful economy, like banning zero hours contracts, we forfeited the debate on who can be trusted to deliver a successful economy in the first place – in other words the debate that actually decides votes.

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Goodbye Lord Sugar. It’s time for a normal relationship between Labour and business

14/05/2015, 08:30:16 PM

by Dan Cooke

It’s a sure sign you’re in a bad way when someone as pugnacious as Lord Sugar takes care to fire you gently, stressing that they don’t want to “stick in the boot”.

In truth, it is the very blandness of Sugar’s announcement of his resignation from the Labour party that is most damning. Sugar apparently did not even feel the need to explain what were Labour’s “negative business policies and general anti-enterprise concepts” that concerned him, or how these compared with policies of Gordon Brown which he praised.  He probably thought he did not need to because the perception that the Labour party is now “anti-business” has become so wide and deep that, for many, it requires no explanation.

Whether it is actually justified or not, this is a totally untenable impression for a mainstream political party to have created in a modern capitalist society. When too many swing voters decided that a vote for the Conservatives was a vote for a strong economy, the perception that companies on which millions rely for their livelihoods were behind the Tories, reflected in high-profile open letter campaigns, will have been a major contributing factor.  It is quite plausible that this impression was even more important than the debate about the causes and consequences of the deficit, on which the party has agonised incomparably more.

How has this happened? Labour, after all, is not the party that wants to put at risk access for British businesses to the single market in Europe and the network of EU-negotiated free trade agreements outside Europe. Labour is not the party that hinders businesses obtaining crucial work permits for skilled workers because of an arbitrary and undeliverable immigration cap. And Labour is not the party that has put ideology ahead of commercial logic with unworkable schemes like the widely mocked “shares for rights” proposal.

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Welcome new members – here’s some leaflets to deliver

13/05/2015, 11:54:08 AM

by James Noakes

20,000 new members since the election is something the Labour Party should be pleased about but we also shouldn’t squander this opportunity. Aside from updating the introductory email as the current one from Ed asks them to work for a Labour victory in 2015, there are some things we can do to make the membership experience better.

Ask not only why they join but what they want

We live in an age where membership experience of any organisation is increasingly driven by expectations. Except in political parties. Some people are driven to become very engaged and want to be out there flying the flag and canvassing, others want to be part of the policy process whilst there are some who just want to make a donation and receive some literature every now and then. It may come as a shock but not everyone joined to deliver leaflets or attend meetings akin to those of the People’s Front of Judea.

The party can save time, effort and annoyance if we just focus more on this crucial area. Imagine being a CLP secretary who is told that 200 new members have joined. That’s a lot of (somewhat enjoyable) work. Imagine though if the secretary was told 180 of them have no interest in meetings, leaflets or canvassing. It makes for a better directed approach.

Find out who they are

Even as an elected councillor there have been few occasions when I have been asked about my profession and what I could add. People come to the party with skills – life and work skills we can really make use of but invariably fail to do so. I’m not just talking about ‘professional’ skills or in depth knowledge of a particular subject field – though that is important to tap into. Sometimes it is a bit more straightforward. A colleague of mine worked in the pools industry and was used to stuffing envelopes at a ridiculously fast pace (and had friends who could help too). It was silly it took to so long to ask her to coordinate that!

Remember that they need help too (more…)

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