Posts Tagged ‘Fabian Society’

The Fabians are wrong. Labour’s policy on immigration must be about principle, not just doorstep tactics

05/10/2014, 04:58:57 PM

by Ranjit Sidhu

The Fabian society recently released Revolt on the Left, a document that professionally and exhaustively went through the reason why UKIP was a threat to Labour and what the practical responses should be.

That the Fabian Society, home once to the thinkers that shaped modern society, would create a document on “saleable doorstep policy” to reassure voters that Labour, like UKIP, would be hard on immigration and immigrants getting housing, instead of ideologically battling with the frankly racist lies that UKIP pedal to demonise a disenfranchised groups in society,  is a sad bellwether of how Labour has changed: Labour’s very soul, it’s very DNA, since the nineteenth century was to stand up for these demonised and voiceless groups.

The facts on immigration show clearly that it has an overall positive effect on our economy. However, we know it is the perception of immigration being out of control that needs to be combated and that by its nature is a battle of ideas. As the Fabian report so clearly illustrates it is a battle Labour seems prepared to lose when faced with the anti-immigrant populism that currently pervades our country.

That immigration is an issue of perception was again proven in the recent EU elections, where UKIP gains were highest where immigration was low and lowest in areas of high immigration.  This further proved the point made by an Migration Observation study  when it asked if people thought the UK had a “very big problem” with immigration and whether they thought their own community had a “very big problem” with immigration. Over five times as many people (38 per cent to 7 per cent) thought the UK generally had a problem but not their own community. By accepting the narrative of UKIP, our country loses Labour as the bulwark against the politics of fear –  the bogyman of immigration is allowed to grow unchallenged.


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40% strategy? Nope. Fabian analysis suggests Labour’s current ceiling is actually 32%

14/10/2013, 07:00:49 AM

by Atul Hatwal

There has been some excited Labour chatter in the past few weeks following the launch of a Fabian report: “Labour’s next majority: the 40% strategy.” The author, Marcus Roberts, is a smart guy with a persuasive line in reasoning. For a Labour party that has seen its poll lead dwindle over the past months, a clear numerical path to a substantial majority is like picking up a trail back to civilisation after being lost in the jungle.

George Eaton in the New Statesman and Jeremy Cliffe in the Economist lauded the analysis and it’s empowered leadership loyalists with a response to charges that the ceiling of Labour’s ambition is 35% of the vote.

In his analysis, Marcus breaks down the different blocks that could make up a Labour vote of 40%: 27.5% from Labour’s core vote, 6.5% from people who voted Lib Dem in 2010, 5% from non-voters and 1% from 2010 Tory voters.

At first glance it all seems reasonable if a shade optimistic. But there’s a problem.

The numbers aren’t right.


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Sunday review on Wednesday: the Great Rebalancing, by the Fabian Society

02/01/2013, 07:00:26 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Heavy words are lightly thrown in the Great Rebalancing, the Fabian Society’s new collection of essays on the economy. Three telling examples are “change the rules of the game”, “a mainstream north European economy” and “market failure”. The different interpretations that might be made of these largely undefined terms go to the heart of Labour’s dilemmas.

Twice in Stewart Wood’s relatively short introduction he refers to “changing the rules of the game”. This may tell us that he is putting these words into Ed Miliband’s mouth but I remain unclear as to what exactly is meant.

Does it mean legal and/or regulatory rules, some market intervention to change the dynamics of competition and thus the rules of the market, or the rules formed by cultural and social norms?

Should, for example, the living wage be a legal right for employees, something that is incentivised for employers by tax or other mechanisms, or something that it is considered culturally unacceptable not to respect?

Wood cites Jacob Hacker’s definition of predistribution: “a more equal distribution of economic power and rewards even before government collects taxes or pays out benefits”. Given that this would not seem to extend to incentivising the living wage through tax breaks for employers, predistribution routes to a living wage would seem to encompass enforcing it as a legal right or seeking to make it a cultural norm. The former comes with more risk of pricing workers out of employment and the later is less likely to effectively secure the living wage.


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Will Progress ever have a clause four moment of its own?

18/05/2011, 04:00:19 PM

by Sunder Katwala

“A Fabian clause IV moment may loom for the ole statists’ new chief”, wrote the pressure group Progress, as their think-tank column sought to stir up some speculation about the future of the Fabian Society under its next general secretary. (I leave this summer. Do apply here, before May 26).

A week later, Progress published a “reform or die” injunction to the Fabian Society, though doing more to stoke a little distant nostalgia for the early “big tent” Blairism of the Britpop era than to credibly suggest an existential threat, particularly when Fabian Society membership is today higher that at any point in our 126-year history.

Still, the argument for a fabian clause four moment is a good one. Fabianism is full of clause four moments. It is because it has been the most open, plural and self-critical, hence regenerating and revisionist, of intellectual and political traditions that fabianism has endured and thrived across a century and more. As Progress gathers for its annual conference this weekend, it would be a good moment for that organisation to consider how to emulate that fabian tradition, and to try a clause four moment of its own.

The Fabians can, uniquely, stake a claim to have been a significant contributor to both of Labour’s own clause four moments. Sidney Webb’s 1918 clause four was, in its own time, the moderate, gradualist and democratic socialist riposte to the Bolshevik revolution. Its appeal to workers “by hand or by brain” was designed to expand Labour’s appeal beyond the trade union interest by seeking middle-class support for democratic socialism. That this was a fabian achievement was never a barrier to fabian interrogation and criticism of it.

Arthur Henderson favoured rewriting it by 1929. Fabians were at the heart of the revisionist social democratic push to revise clause four in the 1950s. Fabian general secretary, Bill Rodgers, was central to the modernising campaign for democratic socialism, which sought to mobilise support for Hugh Gaitskell’s ill-fated assault on the old clause four.

Fabians returned to the fray in the 1990s, as the society put Labour’s “southern discomfort” at centre stage after the 1992 general election. Giles Radice called on leader, John Smith, to revise clause four, and returned to the theme as the latest follow-up pamphlet was published on the eve of the 1995 conference. “There would be no better way of showing that Labour is putting forward a credible vision for the future than by rewriting clause four”, wrote Radice. His diaries recount that he had no prior knowledge of Blair’s plan to do exactly that, but was able to tell a fabian fringe meeting on the Tuesday night that “I have been outflanked by my leader”. A decade later, we were making the case for Labour to revisit its foundational values in every generation, not twice a century. Having successfully helped to put the language of equality back into mainstream politics – with the argument for more equal life chances now echoing across the political spectrum. So I argued that Labour ought now to have the confidence to make its commitment to a fairer and more equal society an explicit part of its political mission.

By contrast with the fabians, Progress has never had nor contributed to a clause four moment yet.

Founded in 1996, the organisation had been a mere glint in Derek Draper’s eye when Tony Blair revised clause four the year before. The self-styled modernisers of Progress, arriving afterwards, did not offer an independent, insurgent challenge for Labour to rethink its ideas. Rather, as Tom Watson has set out on Uncut, the organisation was created “from above”, through explicitly seeking out and receiving the patronage of the party leadership for its offer to consolidate and mobilise support for what had already become the new status quo. After fifteen years of flying that New Labour flag, arriving metaphorically in its late adolescence, Progress may increasingly face a “forward, not back” challenge of its own.

If the Fabian Society‘s next leadership should embrace the challenge to define the society’s own next clause four moment, it must also be time for Progress to consider how to have their first.

With Progress fashioning a new trend in fraternal advice and organisational scrutiny between progressive allies, it would seem only fair to reciprocate and to draw on the fabian experience to identify three signposts as to what Progress‘ first ever clause four moment might look like. (more…)

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Fabian Hustings: laughometer

15/06/2010, 08:23:14 AM

This is the laughometer from last night’s Fabian society leadership hustings.

Tiny chuckles weren’t recorded.

We maintained our rule that to score you had to get a proper laugh from a significant portion of the room.

David Miliband 5
Ed Miliband 7
Ed Balls 9
Diane Abbott 7
Andy Burnham 6

These numbers are significantly higher across the board than for previous hustings. Last night was a first outing for the Uncut reporter operating the laughometer on this occasion.  We have not yet been able to establish whether the leap in laughs was due to operator error, or to the candidates loosening up and getting funny.

Views from those present at last night’s Fabian as well as more than one other hustings would be welcome.

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Claire Spencer wants us to admit defeat

18/05/2010, 09:53:28 AM

At Saturday’s Fabian Society ‘Next Left’ conference, General Secretary Sunder Katwala remarked that Labour’s defeat felt akin to bereavement for many of us. We all had a chuckle, but he was far from wrong – our candidates and activists have been in campaign mode for months, giving up most of their spare time in the name of a Labour government and a brighter future. Things had looked bad for a couple of years – but as the polls narrowed and the campaign machines roared into life, many of us hoped as we had never dared to hope before that this was salvageable, that we could win, that we could still deliver. And maybe we could have – but we didn’t – and losing that hope, that future really hit Labour people hard.

I haven’t changed my view that a Labour win would have been the best thing for the country – the timing and precision of public spending cuts, the environment and our position in Europe, to name but three areas of concern – even though it would not have been the best thing for Labour. But it doesn’t really matter what I think – as so many of the speakers at Saturday’s conference reminded us, we lost, and we lost badly, and we can’t hold the electorate in contempt for that. We failed. It felt bad, it still does – but now I feel as though I have sped through the stages of bereavement, right through to hope. At this point, we have the opportunity to take one eye off governance, and to really turn ourselves into the movement for positive change that we believe we can be, and to turn that into something eminently electable by the time we reach the next general election – hopefully in time for the people who need us as much as we need them. (more…)

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