Posts Tagged ‘Peter Goddard’

Labour history uncut: A party caught in two minds

12/11/2013, 11:53:24 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

By late 1932 the recession had become a depression. Unemployment was stuck at 3 million and more austerity seemed the government’s only answer.

The communists responded through their National Unemployed Workers’ Movement (NUWM), which was like a union for the unemployed, with the slight drawback that when they went on strike, nobody could tell. The NUWM organised hunger marches to highlight the plight of the workless.

“Scotland to London, seriously? This is why we need a Scottish government.”

“Scotland to London, seriously? This is why we need a Scottish government.”

The government reacted by doing some organising of their own, arranging for 70,000 policemen to meet the hunger marchers and welcome them to London.

For its part, the Parliamentary Labour Party organised to stay in that evening with a cup of tea, peeking through the office curtains at the ensuing violence and hoping those nasty communists would just go away.

No such luck.

The deteriorating economic situation had helped membership of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) surge from 2,300 in 1930 to 9,000 by the end of 1932.

Meanwhile in Germany, the election in January 1933 of new chancellor with a hilarious Charlie Chaplin moustache and a less hilarious set of beliefs, led many on the left to seek common cause with the communists.

Moscow agreed, recognising an opportunity when they saw one.


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3 years on: Is being the “other guy” enough for Ed to win?

30/05/2013, 04:26:50 PM

It’s 3 years since Uncut started so, in a series of pieces, we’re taking stock of what has changed for Labour since 2010. Peter Goddard gives a member’s perspective

I am not immersed in politics. I am not obsessed, absorbed or professionally involved.

For people like me, or as I like to call us, ‘normal people’, politics only consists of the big events.

Three years ago, there were two big events: Labour lost the election and there was a new leader of the Labour Party.

I wasn’t a particular friend or foe of Ed Milliband’s, but what I did know was that he wasn’t the other guy – the disastrous Gordon Brown.

It was a chance, I thought, for a new start. Ed Milliband’s Labour party could be shaped, moulded and presented to the nation afresh.

Three years passed.

Cameron stopped hugging huskies and sharpened his economic scythe. Disability allowances were targeted, tuition fees introduced, a bedroom tax launched.

In response, Labour presented… the same stuff, but not as much of it. And maybe not as fast.

Two years ago, there was another big event: an election took place for Mayor of London. The Tories put forward their wild-haired wild card candidate.

In response Labour presented… that guy from last time.

Last year, a conference happened. Everyone got excited about how Ed Milliband was going to define and shape the party’s future.

Labour presented ‘One Nation’.

So three years on I’m still not sure what Ed Milliband’s Labour party is all about. If it has a story to tell that has just failed to cut through to people like me, or if he is simply keeping things vague in order to remain flexible up to the next election, I don’t know.

But what I do know is that, until someone like me can clearly describe what today’s Labour party is all about, Ed Milliband remains reliant on the same appeal he had on his initial rise to the leadership – simply not being the other guy.

Let’s hope that’s enough.

Peter Goddard is a sales and marketing consultant

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Labour history uncut: the Hardie boys

01/11/2012, 03:00:45 PM

Continuing our series on the history of the Labour party, Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal look at the runners and riders who founded the Labour representation committee (LRC) in 1900. First up, the Independent Labour party.

Before the Labour party there was the Independent Labour party.

In January 1893, 120 delegates met in Laycocks temperance hotel, Bradford (now new Guiseppe’s restaurant “Nice home made food in a relaxed atmosphere”, TripAdvisor) to found the Independent Labour party.

The socialist intent of this group was evident from the start. It’s aim was to “to secure the collective ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. The Bradford Observer recorded that “The number of socialists among them was apparent from the large proportion of wideawakes (stand up collars).”

A fact which raises the intriguing notion that Saturday mornings on ITV in the 1980s were part of a cunning socialist indoctrination programme for children. Sadly, records do not show if there was a Comrade Mallett at this first meeting of the Wide Awake Club.

A Bradford mural celebrating the ILP depicting their twin passions of workers solidarity and plate-spinning

The inaugural meeting was lit up by the left’s glitterati such as James Keir Hardie, Tom Mann and George Bernard Shaw.

ILP Founder Tom Mann could impale two capitalists at once on his deadly moustache

Hardie had been elected MP for West Ham South a year earlier thanks to combining a broad message that appealed to radicals, trades unions and the local Irish community alike, effective organisation and, perhaps most significantly, his Liberal opponent conveniently dying just before the election.

Rather than turning up to Parliament, as all new MPs have through the ages, with shiny shoes and slicked-down hair, Hardie did things differently. He rocked up riding a wagonette, accompanied by a trumpeter playing La Marseillaise, rather alarming the older generation of Tories who assumed that Napoleon was on the march again.


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Labour history uncut: in the beginning

30/10/2012, 03:00:44 PM

by Peter Goddard and Atul Hatwal

Education. Education. Education. You don’t have to be Blairite to believe in it. Here at Uncut we support the old dictum “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” A solid understanding of the our past is important to understand where the party is today and what we need to do tomorrow.

But it occurred to us, aside from comparatively recent events, we didn’t actually know that much about Labour history. To summarise: there was a splendid fellow called Keir Hardie, a bad’un called Ramsay Macdonald, the glorious founding of the NHS, something about the pound in your pocket and then we’re all singing “things can only get better.”

Tragically we cannot look to the education system to fix our ignorance. The national curriculum devotes little time to the history of the party. Nor does it contain much in the way of jokes. And there are exams.

Labour Uncut would like to remedy these manifold problems so we are pleased to present an uncut history of the Labour party.  This will be an ongoing series of articles taking us from the birth of the party and the circumstances behind it, right up to the present day. Prepare to be educated.


The Labour website declares that the Labour party was created in 1900. And who are we to disagree?

This milestone in political history was not some random event. It came about because the demographics, political climate and industrial landscape of Britain were being transformed.

First, the working classes were just beginning to realise there was more to life than forelock-tugging and starvation. Conveniently, increasing numbers of them were also being given the vote, although not the female ones, obviously, for fear that their feeble thinking should lead to a kitten being elected prime minister.

Second, there was increased interest in socialism in Britain. A number of left wing groups were springing up with various aims ranging from having a bit of a think about social progress to storming barricades and kicking off the revolution.

And finally, there was a rise in union activity as the new mass of urban workers began to flex their industrial muscle.

Unions had enjoyed increasing membership and legitimacy over the previous 50 years, but they were well aware that their position was far from secure.

A successful dock strike led by Ben Tillett had made the Conservatives nervous. As a result, they had been busy doing what Conservative governments like doing best; using the full force of the law to mount an offensive against unions.

Gas workers’ union meetings traditionally finished with a rousing rendition of “I’m a little teapot”


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The right and the wrong way to attack the Tories on housing

27/06/2012, 01:48:45 PM

by Peter Goddard

So David Cameron has announced his latest cuts, this time directing his bloody shears at housing benefit for the young.

Predictably, left-wing commentators have howled their outrage at this latest withdrawal of the state.

The problem, though, is that while many on the left focus on the gross abrogation of an individual’s right to benefits, criticising Cameron for cutting benefits in this way is little more than accusing a Tory of being a Tory.

The Tories are, as with most of their proposed cuts, using the opportunity to portray the recipients of housing benefit as the undeserving poor, to be contrasted with and despised by the squeezed middle.

These benefits are always shown as being paid to some feckless individual, who ultimately makes a better living on welfare than they would by honest toil.

During straitened times such as these, the rights based case for benefits will only go so far with the public.

Surely it would be better to oppose the Tories in terms of the national interest, the common good. Something in which everyone has a material, rather than moral, stake.


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We need to address our poverty of language

19/06/2012, 07:00:03 AM

by Peter Goddard

So Ian Duncan Smith busy is developing proposals for new measures for child poverty, to include various social and lifestyle measures.

That sounds sensible enough, but there are some on the left who were quick to disagree. Polly Toynbee was one of them. On the eve of Duncan Smith’s announcement she was doggedly insisting that “the only way to measure a nation’s poverty over time,” she states, “is to count how many fall below the norm, and how far. This international measure counts anyone on less than 60% of a country’s median income.”

As Neil O’Brien points out, though, this “effectively conflates poverty and inequality.”

Needless to say, equality and measures thereof are of vital importance, and much valuable research indicates that equality is a vital national good. But equality is not poverty.

The dictionary (OK, defines ‘poverty’ as “the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support.”

According to O’Brien’s research, most people share this understanding, “(70pc) think it still means not having enough to eat, or a place to live.”

In fact, almost nobody outside the political classes, when asked to define poverty, will ever use the words ‘median income’.

By confusing relative poverty with absolute poverty, Toynbee and her ilk enable some stirring invective. But it also creates some curious paradoxes.

It is, for example, perfectly feasible for everyone in an economy to improve their income and become visibly better off but, through an increase in inequality, this to result in more people falling poverty.

So by using this measure you can become materially better off whilst simultaneously plunging into poverty.  Most would agree this seems counter-intuitive at best, manipulative spin at worst.


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Time for some nostalgia marketing for Labour

23/05/2012, 07:00:05 AM

by Peter Goddard

We are living, as the old Chinese curse has it, in interesting times. Greece is on the verge of exiting the Euro, in Spain, Bankia has to deny rumours of a run, the News International debacle just keeps on going. Short of Rebecca’s horses eating each other, the signs that the old certainties no longer apply couldn’t get much worse.

The Tories are playing directly into this narrative of unease with their programme of cuts, cuts and more cuts. And this week they have further identified themselves with the sense of national uncertainty and fear with their plans to make sacking employees easer.

This close identification between the Tories and personal insecurity for so many people provides Labour with an opportunity to offer something different.

Leaving it to finer minds to identify the policies that might take the country through this traumatic period and into happier times, there are a range of things we can do in terms of messaging and presentation to maximise the attractiveness of the party during a period like this.

It is a widely-agreed truth in marketing that in times of hardship or recession, nostalgia becomes a powerful ally.

As Martin Lindstrom says in his book, Brandwashing, “In the face of insecurity or uncertainty about the future, we want nothing more than to revert to a more stable time.”

Marketers have been acting on this for some time already. Back in 2009 the New York Times reported that, “As the recession continues taking its toll, marketers are trying to tap into fond memories to help sell what few products shoppers are still buying.”

Certainly things have not got any better since then.

Knowing this, what could Labour do?

First and foremost, it can stop reinventing itself, having ‘conversations’ in which nobody is really listening and obsessing about exactly what shade of what colour the Labour party might be today.

Secondly, it can start remembering, celebrating and reminding people of the substantial achievements of the Labour party, locating today’s party as the evolution of the party for people who stand up for the less fortunate.

The NHS. The sacrosanct-to-all-voters NHS that Labour built is the easiest example to point to, but there is much, much more.  The post-war social housing revolution, equalities legislation and most recently, rebuilding this country’s schools and hospitals after generations of neglect.

Practically, this can be achieved without mechanical repetition in speeches. Labour doesn’t have to trap itself in a retelling of the past to make its point.

What is required is some retro show don’t tell.


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How Labour can get out the vote that other parties cannot reach

10/05/2012, 02:22:14 PM

by Peter Goddard

One of the perennial concerns of political observers and party campaigners alike is the problem of low turnout. It’s a particular issue for the Labour party given some of the most disadvantaged groups, who would potentially be natural Labour supporters, are also among the least likely to vote.

Admittedly, high turnout is not the be all and end all – after all, elections with 100% turnout are generally characterised by a 100% vote in favour of the excited gesticulating man in a general’s uniform. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned from the world of sales and marketing which could increase the number of our supporters making the effort to have their say.

When campaigning to increase turnout, the temptation is to take an approach which attempts to convince people that voting is ‘a good thing’ and that the current government are the heartless friends of bankers.

This may be accompanied by a range of well-meaning liberal talking heads despairing that voters are not exercising their democratic rights to fight back against the government and wondering what more can be done to win back these disillusioned voters.

Whilst this seems logical on the face of it, it is an approach that may actually be doing more harm than good. The reason? Social proof.

Social proof is the principle that people tend to do what other people are already doing. One person standing and staring into the sky is an oddball. A dozen people doing this will soon find themselves joined by a flock of fellow skygazers. The government have latched onto a variant known as ‘nudge’ but that doesn’t mean it can’t be of use for Labour.


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One example of what’s wrong with British journalism

01/05/2012, 07:30:10 AM

by Peter Goddard

Yesterday’s Guardian featured the ‘shocking’ news that staff on P&O Cruises will not be paid tips directly, but will receive a bonus related to performance.

The headline for this story makes great hay from the staff in question being paid just 75p an hour. Below the line, the audience is outraged, with much Cameron-bashing and righteous left wing scorn denouncing these ‘slave wages’.

But if we actually read the article rather than simply scandalise ourselves with the headline, a more complex story emerges.

The staff in question hail from India and the Philippines, not the UK.

And they work on boats in international waters, not the UK.

So, non-British employees working in a non-British location are paid wages that, by British standards, are very low. This seems rather less scandalous.

Assuming the cruise company provides their staff with room and board (and this is just one of the relevant facts that the article does not provide), the value of the 75p an hour wage bears no relation to the buying power of that money in Europe and therefore tells us very little about how well or badly these workers are being treated.


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The joy of tax

24/04/2012, 07:30:33 AM

by Peter Goddard

Let’s play a game.

Add another word to the following to make a popular phrase… “Tax _____”

What did you answer? Burden? Evasion? Avoider? Loophole?

Whatever it was, the chances are you weren’t thinking anything positive. “Tax hero”? “Tax Embracer”? Unlikely.

The debate around tax, on both side of the political divide always seems to revolve around who isn’t paying enough, who is benefitting too much and inevitably, who is cheating.

But whilst the activities of UK Uncut and their ilk play a valuable role in exposing corporations and individuals who are paying far less than their perceived fair share, are we missing a trick on the other side of the equation?

When I donate £25 to Save the Children, I receive an effusive thank you and the assurance that I have bought ‘safe birth kits’ for five women giving birth at home.

When I give £10 a month to adopt a leopard with the World Wildlife Fund, I receive an effusive ‘thank you’ from the recipients. I also receive regular updates about my newly-saved jaguar and, if I want, a cuddly toy.

And yet when I pay thousands of pounds each year to HMRC, what do I get? To stay out of prison.

Whilst I am a huge fan of not going to prison, it is hardly surprising that thousands of people and companies choose to minimise the amount of tax they pay, sometimes using the mechanism of giving money to charity to reduce their payments.

Either way, the individual is paying out, but at least with charity they have a feeling of wellbeing and a cuddly leopard to show for it.

So why is nobody making any attempt to celebrate the people who do indeed “pay their way”?


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