Posts Tagged ‘Pete Bowyer’

Brighton Rock: A tale of two Labour conferences

02/10/2015, 02:16:32 PM

by Pete Bowyer 

On the surface all seemed well. Or as well as could be, given the circumstances. There was no vote on Trident. John McDonnell pretended that the overthrow of capitalism was no longer one of his leisure pursuits. The Leader downplayed his leftist credentials, whilst the rest of the Shadow Cabinet played up theirs.

True, Owen Jones, the Dear Leader’s unofficial mouthpiece, was unusually demure, but at least Tom Watson was on hand to ebulliantly paper over any cracks. And nobody died, just remember that folks, nobody died. Not yet, anyway.

However, you didn’t have to scratch the surface too much to reveal deep fissures. A brief sojourn to any of the many conference bars and the murmurings were there for all those who wanted to hear them.

Former Cabinet Ministers were already drawing up a shortlist of five potential candidates who could replace Corbyn within the next eighteen months, fancifully in my view.

Members of Parliament – many with shadow ministerial responsibilities – were devising their own leadership in exile to oppose the worst excesses of the current leadership.

London councillors, increasingly nervous about the prospect of a Tory victory in the capital in eight months’ time, were desperately distancing the London party from the national party just as obviously as Sadiq Khan, the party’s own nominee for Mayor, was.

Think Tank chiefs who had supported various of the other leadership candidates were now uniting to create a common policy framework as a mainstream alternative to Corbynism.


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William Hague moves to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe and rehabilitate Robert Mugabe

18/02/2013, 04:29:44 PM

by Pete Bowyer

The EU Foreign Affairs Council has just announced its decision on Zimbabwean sanctions in a press communique from Brussels this afternoon. It is worse than campaigners could possibly have feared.

Not only have EU foreign ministers agreed to suspend the majority of all remaining sanctions on Mugabe and his regime following a “peaceful and credible constitutional referendum” next month, they have also agreed “to suspend immediately the travel ban imposed on 6 Members of the government of Zimbabwe. The EU has also agreed to delist 21 persons and one entity subject to restrictive measures.”

International NGOs such as Global Witness, Human Rights Watch and Justice Zimbabwe who have been campaigning for those in Zimbabwe who have been complicit in human rights abuses to be added to the sanctions list and for measures to be deferred until after free and fair elections in the summer have been snubbed.

In practice, the decision means EU sanctions have immediately been lifted on almost a quarter of Mugabe’s cronies currently effected by the measures on little more than vague promises, and no real change on the ground in terms of human rights abuses and respect for the rule of law. Ironically, it comes on the very same day as the EU Foreign Affairs Council reaffirmed its support for the “promotion and protection of human rights around the world” in a separate communiqué.

The decision, agreed unanimously by EU Foreign Secretaries, including British Foreign Secretary William Hague, represents a major victory for President Mugabe and a significant success for the Belgian government who had been pushing a softer EU line towards Zimbabwe.

It is a stunning volte face from Hague who had previously advocated a more principled and robust approach to Mugabe. Britain now appears to have derogated its influence over geo-politics in southern Africa to the diamond traders of Antwerp.

It should come as no surprise that the Foreign Secretary has yet to comment publicly on the ignominy. But the left should take no comfort from this decision either. Whilst once Mugabe was the focal point of campaigns against a despotic regime which murdered thousands of its own citizens and impoverished a nation, anger has diminished in recent years despite little noticeable improvements on the ground.

Today is a milestone. A milestone in the rehabilitation of Mugabe by the West who has been rewarded for the failure of a nation.

Pete Bowyer is a Labour activist and spokesman for JusticeZimbabwe

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The British left has forgotten Zimbabwe and as a result, today, Mugabe will profit

18/02/2013, 01:29:36 PM

by Pete Bowyer

Later today, William Hague will acquiesce in an EU decision to ease sanctions against Zimbabwe. It will be reflective of Britain’s waning influence in Europe, as much as a lack of concern for continuing human rights abuses in the country.

This decision should concern us greatly. Zimbabwe has become one of the forgotten stories of southern Africa now the horrors of the political violence around the last elections in 2008 have dimmed.

But the truth is little has changed on the ground. The country, once known as the bread basket of Africa, is now reliant of foreign food aid, and Mugabe’s grip on power remains as tight as ever.

Take the case of opposition MDC politician, Roy Bennett. In 2009, he was designated Deputy Minister for Agriculture by Morgan Tsvangirai, but Robert Mugabe refused to swear him in. Bennett was later arrested on trumped up charges of treason.

When a magistrate ordered Bennett to be released on remand, the magistrate himself was arrested because “he passed a judgment that is not popular with the state.” This is the state of justice in Zimbabwe today.

The EU attempts to justify its decision on the grounds that Zimbabwe is due to hold a constitutional referendum on 16 March, and this is a sign of progress. A carrot and stick approach is all very well, but the EU should be erring on the side of the stick, not the carrot.

Rather than caving in to Mugabe, we should be standing up to him. For Zimbabwe to have a bright future, it needs serious and strictly implemented reforms. EU policy should be determined on the basis of concrete actions, not Mugabe’s empty promises.

So, a precautionary approach should have been taken, based on three conditions being met.

Firstly, the decision to review EU sanctions should have been taken only after free and fair elections without violence had been held. True, the constitutional referendum is an important benchmark, but it’s the forthcoming elections that will really determine the future for the people of Zimbabwe.

These are due in the summer, and the EU will end up with egg on its face if it decides to ease sanctions now only having to re-introduce them a couple of months later if the elections descend into chaos like they have done so often in the past.


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Talking to the Liberals and doing murky deals sends a defeatist message for 2015

11/01/2013, 08:35:58 AM

by Pete Bowyer

To the charge of opposing the Liberal Democrat Party, I plead guilty. I am proud to do so. Since being elected in a former Liberal council seat 10 years ago, I have steadfastly stood against the opportunism of a party that says one thing and does the opposite.

But my loyalty to Labour stretches further, much further, back. Thirty years ago, in 1983, I may well have been the only person in the country to have actually joined the party as it launched the longest suicide note in history. It took fourteen more painful years of struggle before we formed a Labour government of which I am immensely proud.

So, despite what David Clark says, nothing, including my intense dislike of the Liberals, should detract us from the urgent need to get rid of this terrible government and to replace it by a progressive Labour one. But as contributors to these pages have noted, much work is still needed before we can be confident of doing so.

Where I, and other activists in the party, diverge from David and his intellectual cabal, is the signal of defeat we will send to the electorate if we hoist up the white flag now and start collaborating with our erstwhile political enemies in getting rid of this murky coalition only to end up compromised by a murky coalition of our own!

Our position, on the other hand, is simple and straightforward. Up and down the country, we must target the most vulnerable seats of whichever political persuasion, as the party rightly indicated only yesterday, to bring us a clear victory at the next election. We should do so openly and plainly without entering into a grubby alliance with a party that I do not believe shares our core, progressive values.

If we are not victorious, so be it.  Let us then examine the arithmetic in the House and plan accordingly. It is difficult to imagine though that the Liberals will be much more than half their present strength, so unlikely to hold us hostage in the event of a minority Labour government.

By going quickly back to the electorate on the question of “who governs?”, we should be able to produce a more decisive outcome, as our predecessors have done before us. And on that basis we can legislate a progressive Labour agenda that both David and I want delivered without needing to compromise with a declining, marginal party.

Pete Bowyer is a councillor in Lambeth

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Getting Labour into government is more important than a tribal urge to kick the Lib Dems

10/01/2013, 07:25:55 PM

by David Clark

I’m pleased that the call I and others made today for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to begin preparing the ground for a possible coalition in the event of another hung parliament has started a debate. That was our aim.

My own priority is to get Labour into government, preferably with a majority. But Pete Bowyer and others seem to attach more importance to kicking the Liberal Democrats out, even if it means a weak minority Labour government unable to pass its own legislation or another election that risked a Tory majority. I can’t pretend to understand that mentality. I can only assume that the people who share it have different reasons for being involved in politics from me; perhaps a deeply felt need for tribal belonging or a zealous attachment to the colour red.

I want Labour to be in a position to put its ideas into practice because I believe they are best for the country. If the most effective route for achieving all or most of what we want is an arrangement with the Liberal Democrats, then so be it. It’s the policies that matter and all this talk about “Lib Dem betrayal” strikes me as trivial by comparison.

Only a fool imagines the next election is “in the bag” for Labour, a view Pete wrongly attributes to the signatories of our statement. I believe that Ed Miliband’s approach gives us the best possible chance, but the prospect of another hung parliament is real. In those circumstances I want a coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats to be a realistic option. The right time to start creating that option is now, not the day after polling day when it will probably already be too late.

David Clark is editor of Shifting Grounds

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The Lib Dems have betrayed the country and we must wipe them out

10/01/2013, 03:53:25 PM

by Andrew Sumner

I’m with Pete Bowyer on this one. The Lib Dems behaviour over the past few years has been shameful. Actions must have consequences. Their betrayal of the British people must not be rewarded with a cosy coalition with Labour. What will the public think to see the apologists for Osborne’s austerity climbing into bed with Labour and securing their own jobs while thousands have lost theirs?

If we are serious about opposing this government then the Lib Dems are every bit as much to blame as the Tories. Those who back a Lib Lab pact can talk about issues like House of Lords reform or constitutional change but these are for the chattering classes. On the things that really matter, on jobs, the health service, education and welfare, we couldn’t be further apart from the Tories’ current partners.

Besides, in practical terms, it’s difficult to see how they walk back from the disgraceful policies that they have done their level best to pass in the House of Commons. So no, we shouldn’t be playing nicely with the Lib Dems, we should be fighting them and doing our best to wipe them out.

Andrew Sumner is a Labour activist

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We should attack the Lib Dems not cave in to them

10/01/2013, 02:50:00 PM

by Pete Bowyer

With David Clark et al’s letter to the Guardian today, Labour’s defeatist tendency is once again on the march, prematurely calling for a Lib-Lab coalition following the 2015 general election.

After a year in which the Lib Dems fortunes have sunk to an all time low, and Labour has established a clear, if soft, lead in the polls, it is perverse that we should be preparing the ground now for a future coalition with a toxic political party. Just ask the Tories!

Those of us who have long confronted the Lib Dems on the ground in local politics, have become weary of the suggestion that they are a truly progressive force in British politics. Here in Lambeth, their short-lived, single term coalition with the Tories saw council tax rise by almost 40%, social housing conditions deteriorate and severe cuts across the board in local services.

Ironically, many of the signatories to the letters are fully signed up members to “the 2015 Election is already in the bag” brigade, which makes you wonder how confident they are in their own predictions. Those of us who are not quite so complacent, believe it is incumbent on all party members to campaign for a majority Labour government, rather than throwing our opponents a political lifeline.

If, in the event, we fail to achieve one, the parliamentary arithmetic will dictate next steps. The instincts of most Labour party members would be to proceed with a minority government initially, and call an early second election to establish a clear mandate as soon as the opportunity arose, a strategy which David Cameron was extremely foolish not to follow in 2010.

In the meantime, we should continue to attack the Lib Dems, not cave in to them.

Pete Bowyer is a councillor in Lambeth

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