Posts Tagged ‘George Kendall’

In-work benefits and the minimum wage: a story of callous Tory disregard for poverty, and the arrant hypocrisy of Jeremy Corbyn

12/10/2017, 03:57:45 PM

by George Kendall

During the coalition of 2010-2015, when the government was facing a record peacetime deficit, many Conservative cuts to welfare were blocked by the Liberal Democrats. In the 2015 election, the Tories took many Liberal Democrat seats, which gave them a majority. They then passed legislation to implement most of these cuts.

Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader on the back of trenchant opposition to welfare cuts, however, when his team wrote their 2017 manifesto, they chose to continue those that had not yet been implemented. According to the Resolution Foundation, they only allocated £2bn/yr to reduce these welfare cuts, which would leave £7bn/yr in place. There was confusion among Corbyn spokespeople, but, by the end of the campaign, Corbyn’s policy of continuing most of the planned draconian cuts to welfare was confirmed as still in place.

I’ve previously written about this here and here, and the responses I have received from Corbyn supporters have been varied, and contradictory.

  • Some acknowledged that Corbyn’s manifesto didn’t allocate the money to stop these future cuts, but said Corbyn would never implement them. Of course, they never explained which of Corbyn’s campaign promises he would break, in order to fund the gaping hole in his budget
  • Others claimed it was fake news. They dismissed analysis of the Corbyn manifesto by the Resolution Foundation as reported in the Guardianby the IFSin the Independentand the New Statesman, even statements by Barry GardinerJeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry. Their denial of reality is an echo of the supporters of Donald Trump
  • But the most common response was that these cuts would be offset by other Corbyn policies, especially a rise in the minimum wage

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Why doesn’t Corbyn just go and join the Tories?

31/05/2017, 02:26:04 PM

by George Kendall

Jeremy Corbyn’s astonishing victory in the Labour leadership contest of 2015 was in reaction to the then Labour leadership’s decision to abstain on some parts of the Tory welfare bill. At the time, Corbyn said: “Families are suffering enough. We shouldn’t play the government’s political games when the welfare of children is at stake”.

On being elected leader, Corbyn was remorseless in continuing his attacks on welfare cuts.

In autumn 2015, Corbyn’s ally, the Shadow Chancellor, committed to reversing the tax credit cuts in full. He tweeted: “We are calling on Osborne to reverse his decision to cut tax credits. If he doesn’t reverse these cuts, we’re making it clear that we will”.

Even as recently as Monday of this week, in his interview with Jeremy Paxman, Corbyn said: “I am fighting this election on something very important, that is the levels of poverty in our society, the levels of children that are not supported properly in our society. I’m fighting this election on social justice”. (7.15 mins in)

These are stirring words. But are they actually true?

Earlier in the interview, after considerable pressure from Paxman, he said that benefits wouldn’t be frozen for three years (3.33 mins in here). According to the respected independent think-tank, the IFS, this would require an additional £3.3bn per year, yet any funding to pay for this is missing from his costed manifesto.

Even more striking is that his explicit commitment in the Paxman interview, to ensure that “children are properly supported in our society” isn’t matched by his manifesto, which fails to reverse child tax credit cuts, a change that would have required £4.8bn per year. In addition, his manifesto only allocates £2 billion of the £3 billion per year that would be needed to reverse cuts to universal credit.

In combination, these cuts will take £9.1 billion per year from the lowest paid in our society.

Instead, he and his team have chosen to allocate most funds to initiatives which will be particularly attractive to middle-class voters.

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Love your local Corbynista

15/08/2016, 09:49:58 PM

by George Kendall

We’ve all had experience of the worst kind of Corbynista. The ones who insist that moderate members of the Labour party are right-wing extremists.

Some of them denounce social democrats as Tories. Presumably, they think there’s no difference between the USA andDenmark either.

But most Corbynistas aren’t like that.

I think what drives them is idealism. A belief that politics should be about improving the world, not making cynical political calculations. The tragedy is that they don’t recognise the idealism that is central to social democracy.

There’s a lot that’s idealistic about a well-run northern European social democracy. If there’s anything idealistic about a corrupt basket case like oil-rich Venuzuela, it’s pretty jaded.

Why don’t they understand that social democracy is the kind of idealism that delivers?

I think it’s partly our fault.

We’ve become so obsessed with beating the Tories that we’ve lost touch with the language we need to inspire good people, who want to help make the world a better place. We’ve failed to make the case for a hard-headed idealism that works, rather than ideological solutions that don’t.

I’ve become very involved in the EU fightback. And I’ve had the pleasure of coming across a number of people, some who used to support Jeremy Corbyn, some who still do. These people share a lot with me over Europe. A passion for internationalism, a horror of racism. Most of all, they share my fear that the most damaging consequences of Brexit will be for some of those who voted to leave.

Anyone who has read my blog posts will know that I don’t agree with Corbyn, and in particular I don’t like the people he closely associates with. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like his supporters.

My hope is, they’ll change their minds and become social democrats. I suspect, eventually, many will.

But, even if they don’t, just because they support Corbyn, doesn’t stop them being great people.

George Kendall is convener of the Social Democrat Group – a Liberal Democrat organisation to develop the social democrat tradition of the Liberal Democrats, and to build links with social democrats in the Labour party

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Britain must do better than a choice of Johnson or Corbyn for PM

26/06/2016, 09:58:49 PM

by George Kendall

Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn. Is that an acceptable choice for Prime Minister?

Boris Johnson is a man who his former employers sacked as a liar, who has sold Brexit on the basis of a series of lies, yet he is the odds on favorite to lead the Tory party, and appears set to call a new General Election in the autumn.

Jeremy Corbyn has claimed he did all he could to avoid Brexit, but half his shadow cabinet appear to think otherwise and are resigning. One Labour campaign source claims the head of the Labour In campaign, Alan Johnson, asked for a meeting with Corbyn in April and was told the only available date would be July, after the Referendum.

Neither Johnson nor Corbyn are fit to be Prime Minister.

The country is in an unprecedented political, constitutional, economic and existential crisis. It may well break up.

The First Minister of Scotland is preparing for a second referendum to leave the Union, and Northern Ireland may do so as well. During the campaign, voters were assured this would not happen.

Those campaigning to Leave have now splintered into two camps, one for retaining trade agreements with our largest market, the other for ending them. Their campaign was based on a series of promises that they are both now disowning.

It would be a travesty if there were no viable candidate for Prime Minister who represented the values of the 48% who voted to Remain in the EU.

Once it becomes clear what leaving would involve, and if, as seems likely, the major promises made by Leave turn out to be false, it may be that the British people will want a further chance to express their view on this. If so, we should give them that opportunity.

If those who want a tolerant, outward looking and honest government are unable to prevent Johnson and Corbyn from being the leaders of Labour and the Conservatives this autumn, they need a viable alternative. What that choice is, depends on many things, but most of all, it depends on who is willing to put country before party.

Once we know the result of the Conservative leadership election, there may be an immediate general election, so we cannot afford to wait. If the 48% are to have the voice they deserve, we need to start organising now.

George Kendall is convener of the Social Democrat Group – a Liberal Democrat organisation to develop the social democrat tradition of the Liberal Democrats, and to build links with social democrats in the Labour party

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The Lib Dem love that dare not speak its name

26/03/2016, 09:50:41 PM

by George Kendall

Since 1997, the Liberal Democrats have had an awful secret.

After 2001, we bitterly denounced the Labour government. We railed against their authoritarian policies on civil liberties and the illegal war in Iraq. In cities across the north of England, we were locked in mortal combat for control of local government.

However, when respective Lib Dems have gathered, after sidelong glances to ensure the wrong people aren’t listening, there’s something we have only admitted with hushed voices.

Sometimes we’d speak with comic evasions, “Of course,” we’d say. “I hated the Labour government.” And everyone would nod.

“Except the devolution to Scotland and Wales, but that was down to Robert Maclennan and Robin Cook. Labour only agreed with great reluctance.

“Oh, and the Freedom of Information Act, but we all know Blair hated it.

“I suppose they did reduce the number of hereditary Lords, but why not elect them?

“And why do they get credit for the Independence of the Bank of England? After all, that was shamelessly stealing our policy.

“They did introduce civil partnerships, but we’ve gone further.

“And they take all the credit for the increase in overseas aid, when that was driven by the Jubilee 2000 campaign. And that was founded by a Lib Dem.

“Fair’s fair, I suppose. The NHS did need more funding, even if they took a few years to get around to it.

“Electoral reform for the European elections may have been an improvement, but they should have introduced it to the House of Commons..

“I suppose the Minimum Wage was all right.” And we’d pause, unable to think what else to say.

We never spoke the obvious punchline. However, if we were honest, in the back of our minds, we could hear ourselves saying, “Apart from that, what did the 1997 Labour government ever do for us?”

Now, almost two decades later, the world has changed. Corbynistas rail against Labour’s record in government, and the Tories ridicule it. But, for us, sometimes the boundary between love and hate is narrower than we realise.

Despite all that has happened since, perhaps it’s time for some of us to admit that, in truth, we loved the 1997 government.

George Kendall is convener of the Social Democrat Group – a Liberal Democrat organisation to develop the social democrat tradition of the Liberal Democrats, and to build links with social democrats in the Labour party

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If the Tories are to be beaten, Labour and the Lib Dems need to start working together

07/03/2016, 09:36:35 PM

by George Kendall

2015 was a disaster for the centre-left.

The Liberal Democrats lost a swathe of seats to the Tories. Moderate Labour members lost their party to the far left. Some are in despair, and are considering withdrawal from politics, perhaps to return once a viable moderate opposition to the Tories is re-established.

However, under first-past-the-post, such an opposition isn’t inevitable. Post-war Japan was run by a single right-wing party, almost continuously for fifty years. Nothing is forever, but, if we wait for change, we may wait a very long time.

Do we want to see the Conservatives in power for decades? If that happens, step by step they will shrink the state and cut taxes for the rich. They will edge the country ever closer to a dog-eat-dog capitalism where the rich enjoy fabulous wealth, but the poor endure desperate insecurity. It would not happen overnight, but it could happen.

The far left believe if they control the opposition, it is inevitable that they will eventually take power.

In a perfect storm, with a recession, and if Tories have an unpopular leader and are divided over a controversial policy, it might be possible, but I think it is very unlikely. Even in 1992, when the country was in recession after thirteen years of Tory rule, the Conservatives still won.

However, even if the far left are right about eventually winning power, it would be a disaster. Having raised unrealistic expectations, they would be hit by the harsh reality of our need to trade in a competitive world, and they would damage our economic and our finances by trying to square the impossible. Perhaps worse, their attitude to the USA and NATO would undermine our alliances, just at a time when new powers are emerging which have no respect for the principles of liberal democracy. They would then be decisively defeated, to be followed by another lengthy period of Tory hegemony.

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