Posts Tagged ‘Covid’

Jack Lesgrin’s week: Turns out there is a Magic Money Tree

02/06/2021, 08:49:54 AM

by Jack Lesgrin

Back during Theresa May’s ill-fated 2017 general election campaign, she told a nurse who had complained about low wages that “there isn’t a magic money tree that we can shake that suddenly provides for everything that people want.” Standard fare of political and economic discourse, you might think.

Yet listening to BBC economics correspondent Andy Verity’s Today Programme news item last Tuesday helped those of us who have been trying to locate the ephemeral Magic Money Tree. Regarding recent government financial figures, he noted that while “borrowing £300 billion may sound a frightening number”, this is a much smaller amount than the figures for both world wars, and smaller than the Office for Budget Responsibility predicted last November. But the killer line was the last one of the report: “…and almost all the money borrowed is owed to the Bank of England, which created the money to purchase that debt from nothing.”

It seems the government borrowed money from itself (in the quasi-independent form of the Bank of England) to spend during a crisis, and now owes itself this sum. It begs the question why must the government owe itself money and therefore, presumably, go through the painful process of either cutting expenditure or raising taxes to repay itself this money?

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

A plea to Keir Starmer: put community at the heart of all of Labour’s policies

12/04/2021, 10:33:34 PM

by Joanne Harding

Roll up, roll up, there’s a new show in town.

We are going to do things differently now, we are going to call it PLACE BASED WORKING.  This just makes me want to breathe into a brown paper bag as I think, here we go again.

Another slogan, more jargon. Can’t we just keep it real and talk about what we really mean?

Communities and people.

The word community means something to all of us.

A sense of belonging, a sense of togetherness and at the heart of it lies people.

As we recover from the past, horrific year we must surely recognise the value and importance of communities and people.

I am therefore making a plea to Labour, under Keir Starmer’s leadership, to put community front and centre in all the policies we develop. Labours policies need to be genuinely relatable to the people we aspire to govern. Speaking a language that we all understand. Let me make myself really clear here, I do not mean Labour Party community organising, I mean genuinely listening to people.

As executive lead for adult social care, I see regularly first-hand just how amazing people are. From the huge outpouring of kindness as the pandemic took hold, the letters that were dropped through neighbours’ doors with an offer of shopping, collecting prescriptions, walking the dog. Those WhatsApp groups that became known as “ mutual aid networks” (subtext: people, communities stepping up and finding their own solutions) , the Marcus Rashford campaign to make sure children didn’t go hungry during school holidays, people and communities stepping up and helping each other.

Here in Trafford I was proud to be part of a team that led on the setting up of 6 community hubs. Hubs that have proved to be a lifeline to the people they have supported. We broke down barriers in the space of ten days that in ten years as a councillor had caused endless hours of frustration.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Keir Starmer’s task is to show how the Tories’ choices left Britain so exposed to the ravages of the crisis. Just like David Cameron did to Labour in 2008

06/04/2021, 10:35:20 PM

by David Talbot

When Gordon Brown took to the despatch box for Prime Minister Questions in late 2008, his slip of the tongue – that he had “saved the world” – was, of course, mercilessly mocked by his many detractors. Brown’s handling of the financial crisis, both actual and perceived, went on to form the nucleus of the Conservatives’ electoral strategy for the election two years later – and to dominate British politics for the next decade.

History has since judged the efforts of Gordon Brown to recapitalise the world economy in a rather more favourable light. Indeed, a rather noted economist may even agree with his assessment. But it provided a perfect wedge opportunity for the then opposition Conservative party who, as history has also rather forgotten, had hitherto pledged to match Labour’s spending plans.

The Conservatives’ ruthless exploitation of the global recession, and its central accusation that Labour’s profligacy had largely caused it, was the platform on which it fought the 2010 and 2015 elections. It was a conscious and potent choice to blame Gordon Brown and the Labour Party as being solely responsible for the recession and to continually fuel fears that the country was on the brink of bankruptcy. ‘Borrowing’ became the bogey word in British politics and the deficit the fulcrum in which all political decisions were taken. In a perfect illustration of how it is the victors that write history, the budget deficit today is exactly double what David Cameron and George Osborne were apparently so apoplectic about in 2010.

What, then, are the lessons to be applied to today’s, COVID-dominated, politics? Sir Keir Starmer marked his year in post with a missive in the organ of the left, the Observer, stating that the Prime Minister’s “slowness to act at crucial moments cost many lives and jobs”. It was possibly Starmer’s most damning assessment to date of the government’s handling of the pandemic, but it was mentioned only in fleeting, and not as a central thread of an event that, as the Prime Minister himself has admitted, the country will be dealing with for a lifetime.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Starmer’s response to Hancock tells us a lot about his long-term strategy to win

23/02/2021, 10:40:57 PM

by Tom Clements

No doubt that you are appalled at the failure of Matt Hancock to publicise the details of the Covid contracts that his department handed out. But I doubt that you were surprised. You might, however, have cocked an eyebrow at Keir Starmer’s refusal to call on the Health Secretary to resign.

But you shouldn’t be. We should take it as a clear signal that the new leadership of our Party has a strategy to win in 2024.

Predictably, there was much outrage for the extremes of our Party at Starmer’s perceived weakness. The electoral sage of the NEC, Laura Pidcock, even took to Twitter to ‘profoundly disagree’ with Keir and his lack of anger.

But this criticism misses the point.

To be clear, this is in now way a defence of Matt Hancock. Indeed, it is incredible how low a minister in this government needs to stoop before they will be expected to do the ‘honourable’ thing. Instead, it is a defence of the strategy that is in play in LOTO.

What do Ken Clarke, Jeremy Hunt, George Osborne, Theresa May and Boris Johnson have in common? All of them faced calls from either Ed Miliband or Jeremy Corbyn to resign. And none of them did.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Uncuts 2020 (part II)

31/12/2020, 05:45:35 PM

Politician of the year: Keir Starmer

Politics is a trade conducted exclusively in the moment so it’s worth restating the position at the point Keir Starmer became leader. Just over a year ago, Labour crashed to its worst defeat since 1935, collapsing to 203 MPs and trailing the Tories by just over 11% in the popular vote. Few alive had seen the party laid so low.

Nine months on from the leadership election, Labour is currently level pegging with the Tories, Starmer himself is consistently ahead of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have yet to work out a consistent line of attack on him. The process of returning Labour to electoral contention will be a work of years, but the early progress under Labour’s new leader is evident.

Keir Starmer’s resolution in winning back the Jewish community’s trust and tackling anti-Semitism with Labour has combined moral and political imperatives, establishing the clearest possible dividing line with the previous leadership (albeit, helped unintentionally by the hard left’s inexplicable decision that this is the hill to die on).

British politics in 2020 has spawned many losers. Boris Johnson has squandered the public’s trust following his victory and is vulnerable, Ed Davey isn’t yet a blip in the opinion polls and even Nicola Sturgeon faces unprecedented challenges with the burgeoning civil war within the SNP between her’s and Alex Salmond’s factions. Against this backdrop of political struggles and reverses, Keir Starmer is the one British party leader who has made significant progress over the year.

Nothwithstanding the recent intra-party challenges over Brexit, he enters 2021 with a level of momentum and an expectation of further progress.

Shortest-lived Frontbencher Award: Rebecca Long-Bailey

Perhaps against the better judgement of some of his more seasoned colleagues, in April Keir Starmer opted to appoint a few of the younger Corbynites to frontbench roles, in a “unifying” play to move on from the Corbyn years. Despite his best efforts, it didn’t last.

By June Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Momentum-anointed candidate to replace Corbyn as leader, had gushingly tweeted a Guardian article by resident hard-leftie-luvvie Maxine Peake, where she regurgitated an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. While Peake herself later distanced herself from her own words as a mistake, Long-Bailey somewhat loftily refused to withdraw the tweet and apologise herself. This went down in the LOTO’s office like a lead balloon.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Uncuts: 2020 Political Awards (part I)

30/12/2020, 10:30:02 PM

Best International Politician: Joe Biden  

Our hearts may have entered 2020 longing for it to be last year of Donald Trump’s presidency. But our heads should have told us that one term presidents are rarely beaten, especially when benefitting from a growing economy and strong approval ratings for economic management.

In early February, Joe Biden secured a lower vote share at the Iowa caucus than Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg (we said, this time last year, he was one to watch and is now the President-elect’s nominee for Secretary of Transport).

Covid-19 transformed the Trump presidency and the Biden candidacy. It took a global pandemic to politically expose Trump’s inability to effectively run the federal government and make resonate Biden’s backstory of grief, resolve and decency.

While Covid-19 upended the presidential race, Biden deserves immense credit for fighting it on his own terms – not allowing himself to be goaded by Trump into spats on Twitter or elsewhere, failing to provide an easy target for Trump’s attacks on “radical socialism”, and maintaining consistent message discipline throughout the campaign.

Now this message – building back better for all Americans – needs to be made real. In a deeply divided country, with a political system grounded in bipartisanship, this will not be easy. But is a fight that Biden must win to overcome Trumpism, even if his victory over Trump makes him one of 2020’s heroes.

Political Self-Harm Award: Jeremy Corbyn.

In an unrivalled act of foot-shooting the former leader decided, after explicitly being asked not to undermine in any way the results of the EHRC report into anti-Semitism, did exactly that, declaring that said anti-Semitism had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.

For his trouble, he earned himself a suspension of the PLP whip and his party membership, suspensions which the party reportedly had not remotely planned to impose until his unwanted intervention.

While the party’s existing and undeniably flawed disciplinary procedure allowed his reinstatement as a party member, Keir Starmer informed him that the PLP whip, which was a matter for the leader personally, would not be reinstated and that Corbyn would sit for the present as an independent in the Commons.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Ignore the teenage scribblers on the left, Keir Starmer has got this

23/12/2020, 10:36:38 PM

by David Talbot

As dusk falls on the most punishing of years, the political fortunes of the Government has oscillated from “a fantastic year for Britain” to Christmas being cancelled across a country decimated by COVID-19, economic collapse at home, ostracisation abroad and uniform exhaustion at life being halted as we know it.

For the Prime Minister, who ushered in the New Year with what can now rightly be seen as one of the most macabre of reassurances, his bombastic optimistic, jingoism and bravado – which were all either once lauded or played significantly to his base – have become his wickeder traits as reality finally catches up with his fantasies and self-obsession.

For the Labour Party, the direction of travel has been diametrically opposed but no less difficult.
Jeremy Corbyn’s influence on the Labour Party had been profound. Corbyn, and Corbynism, was ushered into a party rootless after 13 years of power and the failure of Ed Miliband to carve out distinct ground to the left of his predecessors, whilst still appeasing a membership and trade union base yearning for “transformative” policies. The 2019 election result was the final sorry denouement to that particular thought exercise.

Labour has now been out of power for 10 years, half of that time under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. The hegemony that he held over the party, particularly post the 2017 general election defeat, has now been ceded.

One of the many early tasks for the new Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, was to establish himself before anyone else could define him.

The Conservatives’ inability to define and sustain a line of attack on the Labour leader is self-evident; he most obviously is not, for one, a far-left sympathiser of Jeremy Corbyn, nor is he – as has been highlighted to no great joy – Captain Hindsight.

Starmer rightly recognised early on in his leadership that he needed to earn the trust of the British public to be listened to again. It involves a long-term commitment to listening to and understanding why communities moved away from a party historically created to represent them.

Policies are, of course, important in politics. But so are people. Labour presented a dazzling array of policies at the general election last year which, whilst collectively popular, were holed by a complete lack of credibility and competence by those espousing them.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour’s splits over Brexit and Corbyn are threatening to spiral out of control

30/11/2020, 11:34:35 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Brexit has been driven off the front pages by Covid 19. This has created what can only be called The Reality Gap. The real world of the negotiation on the Withdrawal Agreement has been overlaid by the determination of the Johnson administration to walk out on January 1st whatever happens. A sensible government would have extended the deadline until after the Pandemic was beaten, but sense and sensibility are absent in an increasingly unreal world where debate is minimal.

The negotiations are clearly posing serious threats, either of a thin agreement – still the most likely outcome – or a No Deal. The slogan which won the 2019 election of an Oven Ready Deal was never realistic. A deal likely to keep the same terms as the UK now enjoy was not on the table. As the pandemic has done major damage to the British economy, a thin deal could create a major recession. No Deal would be worse. But as the British cannot deal with two major threats at the same time, Brexit has become invisible.

The risks were underlined in mid-November by the BBC report that Felixstowe – Britain’s major container port – was blocked and imports were stranded, some having to go to Rotterdam and come in by other ports. The delays will continue through December and into the New Year – withdrawal is not going to help the situation.

In Kent the lorry access through Dover and the Channel ports after January 1st is so problematic that lorry parks for up to 7000 lorries are being built. For the companies that rely on imports and exports, on top of the pandemic, the financial consequences of the Felixstowe bottleneck are already very serious.

Since problems with trade have such major risks, the Labour Party should be putting all its energies into holding the government to account. Sadly it is in danger of lapsing into civil war over the EHRC report and the removal of the parliamentary whip from Jeremy Corbyn. As this could involve legal action -hopefully this will not happen – any discussion of this is inadvisable and could be sub judice.

Indeed some elements of the Left – including Jon Trickett – believe Labour should apologise for backing a confirmatory referendum and not lining up with Farage, Johnson and Cummings in regarding the 2016 vote as the last word. Their views were set out in an article on Labour List on November 12th demonstrating continued fault lines in the Party over the successful attempt by the Tory Right to split progressive forces. However this does not mean that Labour should ignore the problems coming in six weeks time. Certainly the current internal ructions are a further distraction, and if unions do withdraw election funding the next five months up to the May elections this will threaten the basic function of the Labour Party – to fight and win voter support.

The Party is starting to spiral out of control.

Trevor Fisher was a member of the Labour Coordinating Committee executive 1987-90 and secretary of the Labour Reform Group 1995- 2007. He was a member of the Compass Executive 2007-2009

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour needs to be bolder. Keir Starmer should call for an extension to the Brexit deadline until Covid is under control

15/11/2020, 11:23:53 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Whatever is happening inside Number 10 with Cummings and Lee Cain reportedly ousted, it is clear that a turning point has been reached. This is likely to be Brexit related, as it was never the case that the slogan “Get Brexit Done” was within reach even before the pandemic struck. There was no “Oven ready deal” that could be simply signed off, and the sensible thing to do even for committed Brexiteers was to postpone the extension deadline to get the pandemic sorted. Labour should be saying this, but instead the Hard Left spokesmen Jon Trickett, Ian Lavery and Laura Smith issued a report titled No Holding Back on 12th November.

This lined up with full throttle Brexiteers who aim to take Britain out of the remaining EU arrangements on January 1st, advocated by Nigel Farage and his associates on the Far Right of the Conservative Party. Farage reacted to reports Cummings was going with the fear that Brexit would not be delivered. We will see in the days to come whether this is the case, but in the meanwhile Trickett and Co demanding that Labour apologise for cautiously wanting a confirmatory referendum on Brexit is nonsense. The 2019 result was bad: it would have been much worse if Labour had drive Remain voters into the arms of other parties: as it managed to do in Scotland anyway.

While a postponement of the Brexit negotiations is the compromise even  Brexiteers could accept,   the fundamentalists like Cummings, Cain and Farage were always unlikely to do so, but Labour could and should be saying it is time to postpone negotiations. Sadly even on less contentious issues Labour is unable to require sensible changes of course by the government. The most immediate is cancelling school exams in England in summer 2021. Tory policy to reinstate exams next summer is a bridge too far. Schools have lost five months teaching March to July. The only pupils who will have been taught the syllabuses completely are in boarding schools, or pupils with rich parents who can buy in coaching or online teaching or both.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Schools will continue to protect the vulnerable even if the government won’t

26/10/2020, 12:34:12 PM

by Tom Clements

Alec Shelbrooke didn’t vote to extend free school meals to children during school holidays because he was wary of “adding (an) additional administrative burden to schools”. Whilst it is always nice to hear concerns about teacher workload from a Member of Parliament, especially one that has consistently voted in favour of real term cuts to school funding forcing us to do more with less; it is important to expose this sentiment for the offensive nonsense that it is. 

The simple fact is that schools have stepped up throughout this crisis to support families in need. Without fuss or complaint, thousands of school staff, both teaching and non-teaching, have gone above and beyond to limit the impact of the crisis on the children that we are fortunate to serve. 

Throughout lockdown, schools remained open so that vulnerable children were able to continue to learn. Lessons were taught, independent study spaces were staffed and hot meals were provided. At the height of the crisis, teachers, support staff and dinner ladies put the children’s interests above their own. They provided a sense of normality and safety for children who really needed it. 

When the crisis turned the world upside down, schools transformed into community centres in order to offer the support that their families needed. Advice on applying for universal credit for families thrown into unemployment by the ripples of lockdown. Food parcels ordered, packaged and delivered to families who needed them. School budgets squeezed to provide laptops and learning materials to children who needed to study. Free school meal vouchers ordered despite a website that crashed at the slightest demand. 

When September brought an insistence that schools opened in spite of fears of a second wave, schools answered the call. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work, writing contingency plan after contingency plan, to create an environment that was safe for children to learn and staff to work. All of this done in the face of ever changing, and often contradictory, government advice that was often released on a Friday night in a meek effort to avoid scrutiny. Eventually, thanks to the efforts of school leaders and estates staff, children were welcomed back on time. 

And now we are back, school staff have ensured that the experience of children has been as normal as possible. Year group bubbles, staggered starts, face coverings at social times and countless other safety measures put in place to allow schools to reopen have made things different. But, thanks to the kindness and warmth of teachers and teaching assistants, the children have been able to take these changes in their stride. Learning has continued, friendships have blossomed and the simple joys of childhood have restarted.  (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon