Posts Tagged ‘John Spellar’

United we stand – keep the link

26/01/2012, 01:00:25 PM

by John Spellar

John Healy has produced an excellent article on the unpleasant Tory group launching an attack on trade union rights and their ability to represent their members.  Also this week, Jim Sheridan, chair of the Unite group, rightly expressed his concern at what he sees as “some within the party constantly looking for ways to break the link”.  So the trade union movement and its links with the Labour party are once again under serious attack. It’s déjà vu all over again.

My only difference with Jim’s analysis is that there are also those on the ultra left who are looking at ways of weakening the link, and they always have. Both they and the latter day Jenkinsites have a very weak grasp of the realities of progressive politics, and not only in Britain. The Jenkins heresy always lamented the breach between Labour and the Liberal Democrats at the beginning of the last century.  He harkened back to what he saw as a “progressive century” in the nineteenth century.  Actually looking at the years in government of the two parties that century, and even regarding Palmerston as a progressive, he was wrong, but the most important error in his analysis is that it implied that the creation of the Labour party as a sovereign party, was a critical mistake.

On the other side, the ultra left, excepting their entryist phases, have always regarded the Labour party and the trade union bureaucracies as obstacles to their Leninist fantasies.  The reality for working people today is that under a major onslaught from an economic tsunami and a vindictive and incompetent government, it is now more than ever that they need effective unions at the workplace, strong union campaigning in national issues and a Labour party in, or preparing for, government; and they very much need them working together.

The reality is that  in every country with a successful Labour, Social Democratic or even Democrat Party is that there are strong longstanding links with the unions.  They are founded on our shared history, values and interests.

There may be nuances in the detailed constitutional arrangements, but they are far less relevant than the community of Labour. So it is right for us to make clear the indissoluble relationship between us. After all, the clue is in our name. So let’s have done with the delusions of both these groups and reaffirm our determination to “keep the link”.

John Spellar is Labour MP for Warley and a shadow foreign office minister.

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Know your enemy

16/05/2011, 03:00:20 PM

by John Spellar

In a recent discussion on who we should be targeting, one Welsh MP told the old joke: “if you are standing on a cliff with a Conservative and a Liberal Democrat in front of you, who do you push off first, the answer is the Conservative – it’s business before pleasure”.

That priority is absolutely right because the alternative government next time will either be a Conservative or a Labour led government. However, a bit of a refinement of the approach is also probably necessary.

Of course, where you stand in politics often depends on where you sit and I’m sure that my thinking has been shaped by first winning a council seat on an outer London housing estate from the Liberals and understanding at a very early stage how duplicitous, irresponsible and thoroughly negative they are.

However, on a hard-headed practical view of the current political situation, any idea of easing up on the Liberal Democrats is probably premature. It’s certainly the case in Scotland that as the Lib Dem vote collapsed – most of it essentially being an anti Labour establishment vote – it mainly went to the candidates thought most likely to beat Labour, namely the SNP.

However, the picture is very different in other parts of the country. Across much of the North of England, and not just in the big conurbations, the Lib Dems have replaced the Conservatives as the main opposition to Labour. Indeed in many areas they are the sole opposition to Labour. This is also true in some London boroughs.

Therefore for Labour to consolidate our position and firm up our control of those seats, elimination of the Lib Dem political and organisational apparatus which is almost wholly dependent on their councillors is necessary.

This would also then feed into the bigger priority. If the Lib Dems have no hope in seats that they could win from Labour, then in order for them to survive they will have to focus their organisational and propaganda efforts against the Conservatives in many of their seats in the South and South West. We will then have turned round the Iain Duncan Smith paradigm of two coalition parties attacking the Labour party, to two opposition parties attacking the Tories.

Completely focusing on the Tories at the moment would be fine as the answer, if the question was, “how would you vote if there was an election tomorrow”.  However, courtesy of the fixed-term parliament bill we are fairly clear that it is not going to be till 2015. Therefore it serves our interest to consolidate our base over the next year or two while still focusing on our strategy of rebuilding Labour in the South.

It certainly is a sensible business model; it could also be a pleasure.

John Spellar is Labour MP for Warley.

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If we don’t stand, we can’t win. A Labour candidate in every ward.

08/03/2011, 01:00:32 PM

By John Spellar

There have been some significant omens heralding the implosion of the Lib Dems. Barnsley, where they slumped from second to sixth, is the most dramatic, leading to the bizarre outburst by Lib Dem president, Tim Farron MP, in which he compared Barnsley to North Korea.

Nor should we ignore the surge of UKIP as a new oppositionalist channel. A few weeks ago down in Cornwall, Labour went from fifth to first to win a county council seat.

The pattern isn’t universal. The Lib Dems are holding out in some areas. But there is clearly a rumbling in the land. There are also strong rumours that polling shows that Clegg’s position has slumped disastrously in his Sheffield Hallam constituency.

Which leads us to the elections in May. The public will only be able to register their disgust with this Tory-led coalition if they have Labour candidates to vote for. It is not only bad for Labour, but bad for democracy if we let the case go by default in some areas by not running candidates.

The NEC and Victoria Street should instruct all regions to ensure that everyone going to the polls has the chance to vote Labour. There must be no hiding place for the Tories and the Lib Dems.

We will win a lot more votes, build the party across the country and – as in Cornwall – make some surprising gains.

Closing date for nominations is Monday 4 April.

John Spellar is Labour MP for Warley.

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The real middle – and what it really wants

18/01/2011, 02:00:56 PM

by John Spellar

Target voters have been described as Worcester Woman, Mondeo Man and now the “squeezed middle” or “alarm clock Britain”.  However, far too much of the discussion has focused on describing the groups rather than trying to assess what this very substantial and important group of voters think, feel or are looking for from politics. In particular, too many commentators seem to believe that they are looking for constant innovation, change and excitement. They would do better to heed Mark Twain, who is reported as saying “I’m all for progress; its change I don’t like”.

With his usual acute observation he encapsulated the attitude of a huge block of voters and particularly those swing voters among the C1 and C2s. They are crucial for elections, not only in the UK, but across the English speaking world. Indeed, I suspect, in much of the rest of the world, particularly the Nordic countries.

In Britain, they have been the backbone of Labour victories, but also the key to victories for Conservative leaders who can tap into their psyche and articulate their concerns.  Elsewhere, Ronald Reagan was probably the most adept at this. While the Australian leader, John Howard, and Margaret Thatcher built their success on this group in their earlier years, both were probably too much radical revolutionaries pushing instability, John Howard with “work choices” and Thatcher with the poll tax. (more…)

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The Tories aren’t winners, so don’t let them write our history, says Michael Dugher

18/10/2010, 09:00:45 AM

Nixon once said that the moment the public begin to complain about the message is the moment that some of the public have heard the message. At 1230 on Wednesday, George Osborne will get to his feet at the dispatch box to announce the outcomes of the comprehensive spending review.  Even if the precise measures contained in the review were only finalised late at night over recent days, his script was agreed months ago. With tedious repetition, Osborne will once again blame all of the country’s woes on the size of the deficit. He will say that Labour’s legacy, in terms of the public finances, was the product of reckless irresponsibility, “profligacy” and waste – and that the Tory-Lib Dem government is determined to “clean up the mess” Labour left behind. This, of course, is a complete untruth. But if Labour does not confront this argument, there is a danger that the message will not only be heard, but believed. (more…)

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Michael Dugher digs in for a long campaign

23/08/2010, 10:47:55 AM

In August 1914, at the outbreak of the first world war, many famously thought that the war would be ‘over by christmas’.  As Labour MPs and party members return from summer holidays, there are those who believe that, perhaps in hope rather than expectation, the Tory-Lib Dem government will implode sooner rather than later.  As the government marks its first 100 days in office, there are few signs that the coalition will fall apart quickly.

Whoever wins the Labour leadership will need to observe our opponents through the correct end of the telescope.  The Conservatives may not have won the last election, but they will be far more formidable opponents at the next one.  A major part of the Labour election campaign was to highlight the ‘risk’ posed by the Tories, as a way of rebutting the ‘year of change’ message put forward by David Cameron.  To some extent, this was successful.  The Conservative brand was still toxic in some sections of the electorate and many people were nervous about Cameron.  Focus groups would quote the ‘hug a hoodie’ speech, would reference the ‘cycling to work with the chauffeur-driven car following with the suit and briefcase’ incident and would respond to the question ‘what would David Cameron be if he wasn’t a politician?’ by likening him to a dodgy second-hand car dealer. (more…)

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