INSIDE: Unite-PCS merger back on. Unite exit from Labour draws nearer

16/01/2015, 05:46:14 PM

The attention of the Labour party might be focused on the general election campaign, but in the background, changes that will fundamentally restructure the Labour movement are in motion. Uncut has learned from PCS sources that the stalled merger with Unite is very much back on the agenda, and with it, Unite’s ultimate disaffiliation from Labour.

The merger ran into the sand following PCS’ conference last year when delegates rejected the leadership motion to continue unconditional negotiations with Unite. However, recent manoeuvres by the PCS leadership suggest that merger wheels are once again rolling.

PCS has been wracked by well documented financial problems. The sale of the union HQ, which was agreed at the union’s national executive meeting at the start of December, was meant to have placed PCS on a more sustainable financial footing.  But just days later, an emergency executive meeting was called for the 18th December.

With one hour’s notice before the meeting, executive members were given papers that included a proposal to suspend next year’s internal election. The reasoning was that the £600,000 cost would sink the union and delaying it by upto year would help enable PCS’ survival. The motion was passed but with no wider debate across the membership.

PCS insiders have taken this as the clearest sign that merger plans are being revived.

Few believe their leadership’s explanation that this is about cost. Why wasn’t suspending the election discussed as an option along side sale of the HQ? What changed in the week following the scheduled NEC meeting in early December? Many view the emergency meeting as a means to railroad the suspension of internal democracy, which in turn allows the core leadership to fast-track negotiations with Unite, unencumbered by the accountability of elections in 2015.

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UNCUT: There is a debate going on about the future of British Islam. Labour needs to join it

14/01/2015, 01:00:45 PM

by Rob Marchant

Following last week’s fatal shootings in the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Monday night’s superbly-timed Panorama: The Battle for British Islam gave an insight into Islamic radicalism and the narratives which feed it.

The most notable thing, as a number commented on Twitter during the programme, was not so much that it was telling a few home truths about radicalism on prime-time television; but that it was being broadcast on the BBC, the heart of the liberal media establishment. (It is also a great tribute, incidentally, to why we still need public-service broadcasting, the Beeb being practically alone, among its not-so-brave British mainstream media competition, in showing the offending Charlie Hebdo cartoons.)

It was also possibly the first mainstream documentary which has homed in, correctly, on the poisonous “grievance narrative” – that Muslims are oppressed in Britain, singled out and victimised for their beliefs – which, as the program points out, is helping drive young Muslims away from their families and towards jihad. Racism exists, yes: but it also exists in non-Muslim ethnic communities, where the results are undeniably less extreme.

Finally, it seems, rational debate on what all this means is starting to reach ordinary people, and there is a glimmer of hope for resolving the deep problems currently faced by Muslim communities in Britain; in turning impressionable youth towards British culture and away from radicalism.

In short, there is a sensible position which neither mollycoddles Islamist extremists nor attacks moderate Muslims, and the lines of it were gently sketched out in the programme: promoting a positive vision from within, of an Islam which embraces Britain, rather than recoils from it.

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UNCUT: Our rights are protected. It’s time for Labour to emphasise our responsibilities

14/01/2015, 09:22:21 AM

by John Slinger

In a 2002 Observer article Tony Blair set out the theme of “rights and responsibilities”. He sought to expose the inadequacies of what he termed the left’s “1945 ‘big state’ that wrongly believed it could solve every social problem” and the right’s “narrow, selfish individualism of the 1980s”. For Blair, responsibilities were concomitant with rights. Admirable people and organisations, from MPs to QCs, Amnesty to Liberty, the CAB to the EU, have ensured that rights are now well-defined and defended. We must remain vigilant about rights, but now it’s time to foster a “responsibilities culture.”

The culture of rights, fought for by philosophers, politicians and ordinary people throughout history has advanced human happiness, security and economic prosperity. It achieved this by imbuing individuals with rights by virtue of being human, not as gifts of God or the state.

Responsibilities should be given this irreducible, non-negotiable status. “I know my rights” is the unacceptable face of rightsism. The responsibilities agenda has historically been directed at the poor rather than the better-off, when in fact it is a universal imperative. In the future, it would be good to hear more of, “I know my responsibilities”, from citizens, companies and organisations throughout society and the economy.

Here are a few areas where the responsibilities revolution could take effect:

Crime

We are required to by the law to obey its strictures. However, we each have a moral responsibility to avoid illegal behaviour. Our criminal justice system would be much less necessary if people accepted the not unreasonable responsibility to desist from harming others. We should spend less time trying to understand the “causes” of crime and more on instilling a sense of respect for others and ensuring that violators fear the law and wider community. The challenge is huge: despite crime apparently falling, the Met reported last week that violent crime in London is up 25 per on last year.

Health
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GRASSROOTS: 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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UNCUT: The Labour right does not belong to Tony Blair

12/01/2015, 10:17:30 AM

by Jonathan Todd

There are worthwhile endeavours within the Labour family that are devoutly non-factional. The point of Pragmatic Radicalism, for example, is to get away from left and right labels and to debate the way ahead in this unencumbered and comradely form.

Unsurprisingly, however, Prag Rad has not succeeded in moving our party beyond having groupings within itself. As much as the vibrancy and relevance of Labour depends on not over emphasising internal differences, which are never as substantial as the things that unite us, and interweaving ourselves with the communities that we serve, such groupings fall into that awkward category of thing that we might prefer not to exist but in all likelihood are always going to and which, therefore, we might as well be grown-up about.

To the best of my knowledge, if this is not too ridiculous a segue from talk of being grown-up, the only person who has ever blocked me on Twitter is a notoriously prolific tweeter, squarely on the party’s left. I’ve never exchanged views on Twitter with this person. I’ve never had a face-to-face conversation with them. I’ve never had any direct engagement with them of any sort. But somehow, I’ve upset them. Being Deputy Editor of Uncut is probably “crime” enough.

It’s not personal. It’s political. I know that. Which is why I don’t take it personally (though, it is petty and is not something, I hope, I’d find myself doing). This activist has one view of what Labour should be and I have another. The party is a broad church. In this context, there will always be different views.

In terms of my views, I have written plenty for Uncut that might be broadly associated with a Blairite position: the importance of fiscal credibility; bring pro-EU and reform in the EU; admiration for Jim Murphy; the desirability of big tents; applauding bridges built with business and wealth creation; embracing the contributory principle; and so on.

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INSIDE: Why is it ok for Sajid Javid to attack Muslims?

11/01/2015, 05:02:38 PM

Sajid Javid sums up everything the Conservative party would like to believe about itself.  The son of a bus driver who dragged himself up by his bootstraps to get to university, before embarking on a dazzling career in the City and a seat in the Cabinet.

But Javid’s tale of social mobility and hard work is all the more compelling because of his ethnicity. Specifically, his Pakistani-Muslim heritage. For a party that barely has a toe-hold into Britain’s ethnic minority communities, he is a powerful emblem.

But here’s the problem. Javid isn’t religious. In his own words he is “not practicing”. Nevertheless, he felt able this morning to weigh into the dubious debate about the culpability of all Muslims for countering Jihadi terror, telling BBC Radio 5 Live that:

“All communities can do more to try and help and deal with terrorists, try and help track them down, but I think it is absolutely fair to say that there is a special burden on Muslim communities…”

Contrast this with what Rupert Murdoch posted yesterday on Twitter:

“Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.”

Or when Nigel Farage claimed the other day that there was now a “fifth column” of Muslims who “hate us”.

Twitter exploded in indignation against Murdoch, while Home Secretary Theresa May called Farage “irresponsible”, and Nick Clegg accused him of making “political points”.

So why does Javid, the non-Muslim, get away with claiming there is a “special burden” on Muslims for dealing with Jihadi terror?

Surely, by opting out of the faith of his father, Javid has no more right to make the same, inelegant argument than fellow affluent non-Muslim men like Murdoch and Farage?

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UNCUT: Winning the election street by street – and station by station too

11/01/2015, 09:00:05 AM

by Michael Dugher

It’s the first time since the 1920s that working people will be worse off at the end of a parliament than they were at the beginning”. That was how Ed Miliband summed up the cost-of-living crisis that continues to engulf hard working families across the country in his big speech earlier this week.  And this was brought into sharp focus for rail commuters returning to work last week who’ve seen their fares go up by more than 20 per cent since David Cameron became prime minister.

Ed Miliband is determined that Labour will speak to four million people before polling day in this year’s general election. That’s why Labour’s transport team have been out in recent weeks talking to the hard-pressed members of travelling public at bus and railway stations up and down the country.

This week I was with Labour’s brilliant local candidate Matt Turmaine at Watford Junction railway station where commuters are having to dip even deeper into their pockets just to get to work on increasingly overcrowded trains.  Season tickets from London to Watford junction have increased by £528 since 2010 – a rise of 22 per cent. Commuters further up the London Midland line travelling from Milton Keynes have endured a 28 per cent hike – an increase of over £1000 – something Labour’s Andrew Pakes and Emily Darlington have recently exposed.

On top of this, people across the country have been hit with stealth fare rises. The government has imposed fare rises on the Northern franchise of up 162 per cent. In my own constituency, in Barnsley East, we have been clobbered by increases of up to 25 per cent, as the government has allowed the operator to extend peak hours. At the opposite end of the country, in Brighton we have revealed government plans for more stealth fare rises on the Brighton main line through eliminating cheaper tickets, which could leave some passengers paying £664 more for their season tickets.

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GRASSROOTS: 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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UNCUT: #NousSommesCharlie

07/01/2015, 09:21:22 PM

Hebdo

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UNCUT: What has changed on the deficit since general election 2010?

07/01/2015, 08:31:55 AM

by Jonathan Todd

This is the first of a series of pieces from Uncut on what has changed in respect of key political issues since the last general election. Looking over this timescale, we hope to distinguish the signal from the noise; what really matters from the day-to-day froth.

Liverpool played Burnley away on Boxing Day. The last time that happened was just before the 2010 general election when Rafa Benitez managed Liverpool. Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish both did so between Benitez and the current reign of Brendan Rodgers. Hodgson’s tenure coincided with the near bankruptcy of one of the world’s great sporting institutions. Enter John Henry, deus ex machina. This American has invested in the club stadium and playing squad, including in Luis Suarez, who brought both disgrace and nearly a Premier League title. Life is easier off the pitch and harder on the pitch sans Suarez. Fans yearn to be made to dream again. And will soon have to hope to do so without talisman Steven Gerrard.

In summary, much has happened at Liverpool since the last general election. Soon after which, I wrote my first piece for Uncut on ‘the emerging politics of deficit reduction’. Since when, as much as politics feels like a rollercoaster, these politics have changed remarkably little. Around the time that piece was published, Peter Mandelson was fighting for airtime by launching his memoirs.

We would not convince the country, Mandelson conceded on the deficit, that the Tories were going too far unless we convinced them that we would go far enough. That reflection on the 2010 election exactly parallels the advice that both myself and Samuel Dale have recently given Labour’s current campaign. I called for ‘Don Miliband’ to show himself, Sam for a ‘carpe deficit’ moment. The terminology doesn’t matter, the point is the same. Mandelson returned to the debate before Christmas to make a similar point in a speech to a Progress and Policy Network conference. Labour, Mandelson advised, will only get a hearing on ‘what will the effect be on society and the economy?’ if we are clear on ‘how much must we cut public spending?’

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