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No Need for New Labour

14 Jan

 

There’s a popular misconception that the political repositioning of the Labour Party was what won the 1997 election and kicked the Tories out of power for the first time since 1979. This misconception – this historical lie – is what underpins the claims of self-proclaimed ‘centrists’ within the Labour Party to be the only ones capable of winning elections.

In fact, it was the Tories that lost the 1997 election – and they would have lost against any Labour leader, no matter how red, pink, ‘Old or ‘New’ they were. For those who have forgotten, or never got told, here’s some of the relevant highlights of British politics in the years 1992-1997:

From a narrow win in 1992 onwards and for the rest of that parliament, their sheer viciousness – and economic incompetence – become inescapable.

1992 “Black Wednesday”, the forced British withdrawal from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and the stock market crash in its immediate aftermath, comprehensively destroys the reputation of the Conservative Party for economic competence. The narrow poll lead they had immediately following the election is transformed immediately. From this point onwards Labour’s poll dominance never slips.

1993 The Welsh Secretary visits a Welsh housing estate with a high proportion of single-parent families – and uses the visit to vilify the single parents who are there to meet him and who are being photographed with him.

The act that enables rail privatisation – once labelled a ‘privatisation too far’ by Margaret Thatcher – is passed. Despite it being controversial and threatening to alienate commuters in their south-east English heartland, the Tories make sure that British Rail is fully privatised before the 1997 election.

1994 Stephen Milligan’s grotesque death show some of the hypocrisy at the heart of John Major’s “Back to Basics” moral crusade. Perhaps not as graphically as Edwina Currie’s later revelation that she and the Tory leader had a four-year affair would have done. Then again,  Tim Yeo MP has already resigned after revelations about how he helped to contribute to the numbers of single parent families. Oh, and Tory MP Neil Hamilton and former Tory parliamentary election agent and lobbyist Ian Greer are named in what becomes known as the ‘cash-for-questions’ affair,. This runs on and on – right up until the 1997 election. It’s this episode that popularised the term ‘sleaze’. For the next three years that word is everywhere.

1994-1997 Rail privatisation. Have I mentioned that this was a policy calculated to lose votes in Tory heartland areas?

1995 John Major resigns as Tory leader, without resigning as Prime Minister, in order to have a leadership election within his party. His eventual opponent, incidentally, is the same man who visited Wales two years earlier to slag off single parents.

Earlier in 1995 the dramatic collapse of Barings Bank at the hands of a single ‘rogue trader’ demonstrates beyond doubt that banks are not being regulated properly. Sound familiar?

A month before that The State We’re In jumps staight into the bestseller lists. Subtleties aside, the key message of the book is that the Tories’ economic model is plain wrong and Britain needs its political institutions radically democratised. Almost anyone with a smidgeon of education is forced to read it – or argue with somebody who has – over the two years running up to the next election. Remember, if you can, that at this point in history the internet is so primitive that it does not influence political opinion.

Also during this year two Tory MPs leave to join other parties, and the Tories lose control of their last councils in Scotland and Wales.

1996 The publication of the Scott Report shows complicity between Tory ministers and companies illegally exporting arms to Iraq – and demonstrates that the Tories were willing to let others go to jail for their misbehaviour.  Just as some other Tories had been in 1995, when they sought to silence vital defence evidence in the very similar ‘Supergun affair’.

The Scott report ran to over a million words. Opposition politicians scrutinising it were given less than two hours to read it. Nevertheless one Labour politician, a habitual left-wing rebel called Robin Cook, managed to read, remember and use enough of it to utterly crucify the government in the debate that followed. Here’s his killer conclusion, direct from Hansard:

Tonight Parliament has the opportunity to insist that Ministers must accept responsibility for their conduct in office and to assert that the health of our democracy depends on the honesty of Government to Parliament. That is what we shall vote for tonight. Of course Conservative Members have enough votes to defeat us. If they vote to reject those principles, however, they will demonstrate not only that the two Ministers who have been most criticised in the Scott report should leave office, they will convince the public that this is an arrogant Government who have been in power too long to remember that they are accountable to the people, and that the time has come when the people must turn them all out of office.

The Tory leader instructs his MPs to treat the debate as a motion of confidence in the government. They obey. The Tories win the vote by one MP – exactly the size of their majority in Westminster.

There is less than a year to go before the 1997 election.

Now tell me New Labour was necessary.

 

 

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Some Advice for Left-Wing Delegates to the Labour Party Conference

23 Sep

The motion to create two new members of the NEC, to be ‘directly’ appointed by the leaders of the Scottish and Welsh parties, apparently needs to be approved by Conference in order to stand.

If you are a left-wing / Corbynite / etc conference delegate you therefore need to make sure you identify that motion and vote against it. Simple as that.

Or not.

First obstacle.  Here’s a link to the way that one supporter of the change has tried to sell it, and it’s how the right as a whole will try to sell it.  The aim will be to make it look like ‘devolution’ of powers, and to make anybody arguing against it look like they reject devolution.  After all, nobody wants to argue with something that looks like devolution, right?

It’s not, as is made clear by the fact that no new representation was agreed for local Labour Parties or councils, and by the fact that the new NEC voting members are automatically to be ‘frontbench members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly’.  More invidiously, the same motion has the Scottish and Welsh party leaders automatically to attend ‘Clause Five’ meetings.  Clause Five is that governing Labour Party policy formation.  Interestingly, the first part of clause five specifies that:

“At all levels the Party will ensure that members, elected representatives, affiliated organisations and, where practicable, the wider community are able to participate in the process of policy consideration and formulation.”

By automatically making the attendee at Clause Five meetings the Scottish or Welsh leader, I think that the NEC is breaching the first part of Clause Five.  Note that it states it ‘will ensure’ that members can participate – whether it’s practical or not.

 

Second Obstacle The way that the Right has normally dominated conferences is by making it difficult, tedious or impossible for ordinary members even to work out where they’re supposed to be.  Failing that, officials and staff will be ‘helpful’ in explaining how motions work and what is being voted on.  They will often be misleading or flagrantly lying.    As for the motions themselves, there’ll be lots of nice-sounding things bundled up with the nasty stuff.  Certainly the safest thing in the vote on the expansion of the NEC (probably advertised as a change in status from ‘advisory’ to ‘voting’ members of the NEC) is simply to reject it wholesale, no matter what subtleties start to appear.

And, not least, there will be a vast number of ‘fringe’ events that directly conflict with the times of the key debates, and there will be votes called at moments when many delegates have left the room, debates appear to be over etc.

The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy say that they’ll be handing out a ‘yellow pages’ outside conference each morning.  I expect Momentum will also be out in force, and should be able to give some similar guidance – although they are running a large fringe event themselves, which may have the unfortunate effect of distracting left-wing delegates who should be in the main conference hall.

Stamina and just being present, not conviction or articulacy or ideas, are the prime ways to win in Labour Party policymaking.

If you can get to speak against it, or are aiming to persuade other delegates, here are some other points you may wish to put:

 

1. The Labour Party in Scotland has only one MP, and it has performed beyond disastrously in recent years.

 

It is, at least with its current leadership, unelectable.  (On a strictly definitional basis, btw, it doesn’t have anyone on a ‘front bench’, as it is the third placed party in Scotland).

 

  1.  The NEC’s motion, by failing to offer the party in Northern Ireland equal status to those in Scotland and Wales, is directly discriminatory against the Irish.  That’s not good.

 

Neither does the NEC’s motion give a voice on the NEC to either England or its regions.  Given that (after Scotland) the area where Labour is under greatest threat is in England, that’s a bit silly too.

 

  1.  The obvious one.  The current NEC has presided over wholesale, and unjustified, expulsions without right of appeal.  They are not in a position to advise anyone on how to ‘devolve’ decision-making. And an NEC that includes Kezia Dugdale and Carwyn Jones on the policy committee will be actively hostile to any real devolution or membership input in the future.

 

Hope this helps. Good luck.

 

If you’d like to expand on or correct any of my points, leave a comment. If it’s useful, accurate and clearly phrased, I’ll display it. If it’s the first two, but not the last, I’ll edit it and send it back for your approval. If you’re a right-winger seeking a shout at someone, you’ll be wasting your type and time. Oh, and I’m not a Labour member, so don’t bother trying to get me expelled.

 

 

 

Rebutting False Claims About Corbyn

28 Jun

The Blairites did get one thing right during their ascendency.  That was the need to tackle head-on media spin against the Labour Party.  Until a membership vote on the Labour leadership happens, the left both outside and inside the Labour Party can be very useful in confronting bad media representation of stories relating to Corbyn.

I suggest, unless you have direct links to such media organisations, using routes such as pointing out typographical errors and errors of fact.

On that note, here’s the text of my message via the ‘typos and corrections’ area of upi.com, in reply to this story:

Your picture caption on the story “British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn loses non-confidence vote” states that the Labour Party had voted against Corbyn. This is inaccurate – the membership have not yet voted, as is made clear later in the article.

The article also states that 1000 people attended a pro-Corbyn rally. There is a zero missing from this number.

I trust, in the pursuit of journalistic excellence, that these errors will be corrected.