Tag Archives: labour

Labour blocks Trident debate to avoid embarrassment for Corbyn

As if there wasn’t going to be enough fun and games at Labour’s Conference next week, it now appears that they will not get the chance to debate the thorny issue of Trident, which will no doubt upset a lot of people.

Motions on both sides of the argument, including one submitted by a Scottish Labour constituency called on conference to note that cancelling Trident would “result in thousands of redundancies” at “world-class engineering centres” in Barrow, Derby, Faslane and Rosyth.”

A motion from the area which most benefits from the jobs created by the submarine base at Faslane in favour of renewal was rejected.

From the Mirror:

The move follows fears that Mr Corbyn, a former vice chair of CND and a long-standing opponent of Trident , would have lost if the issue was pushed to a vote.

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The Iraq War must no longer poison our relations with Labour

What would we remember of the Labour government, if Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attack fifteen years ago had never happened? If Labour had listened to the advice of Robin Cook and John Denham, and not engaged in the catastrophe of the Iraq war?

Many of us will remember Robin Cook’s electrifying resignation speech. If only he were alive today. However, he was not the only Labour minister to step down from government office because of the Iraq war. In his prescient resignation speech, on the 18th March, 2003, John Denham said:

If we act in the wrong way, we will create more of the problems that we aim to tackle. For every cause of insecurity with which we try to deal, we shall create a new one.

This summer, I was an observer at the Fabian and Progress summer conferences. I didn’t hear anyone try to defend the Iraq war, and a number agreed it had been a terrible mistake. In fact, if you substituted the word Labour for Liberal Democrat, almost everything that was said could have been said at a Liberal Democrat conference, and probably will be in this coming week.

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Party like it’s 1981

Imagine that, alongside Michael Foot as leader, Tony Benn had won the deputy leadership of the Labour Party in 1981; it almost happened. Would the creation of the SDP then seem wrong even to Labour loyalists and even today? There is certainly a view within the Labour Party, shared with The Guardian editorial writers, that a way must be found to keep the current party together rather than face the alternative: “No one who remembers or knows about past divisions, notably the breakaway of the Social Democratic party in 1981, should want a return to that.”

The argument runs that the SDP split the Left, enabling Thatcherism to run riot in the Eighties without a strong, electable opposition. With many moderates leaving Labour, the hard Left almost triumphed and Neil Kinnock needed a monumental effort of will to turn the party around into something more, though still not quite, electable.

This line of reasoning is obviously flawed. In the Eighties, Benn did not defeat either Denis Healey for the deputy leadership or Kinnock for the leadership. Jeremy Corbyn (Foot without the charisma) and the hard Left already control the Labour Party. Good luck to Owen Smith trying to do a Kinnock, but if, as seems likely, he fails, what then? The Guardian suggests that the answer is Shadow Cabinet elections.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 16 Comments

Could train-gate derail Corbyn’s leadership campaign?

I travel up and down to London pretty frequently. I haven’t often had a problem getting a seat on the East Coast mainline – and when there has been an issue, it’s usually because there has been some extreme weather issue and two trains worth of people have been decanted into one train.

So when I saw that Jeremy Corbyn had had to spend a journey to Newcastle on the floor of a train, I was a bit surprised but didn’t let it distract me from enjoying my holiday.

Today’s development in that story is worthy of some comment though. It appears that the Labour leader could have had a seat on the train after all. Virgin’s media people have ridden a convoy of coaches and horses through his claims.  In an unusual step, they have released CCTV footage and said:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 87 Comments

Is Labour really the natural home for those concerned about human rights?

 

I read the report by Shami Chakrabarti into alleged racism in the Labour Party over the weekend.  It’s a good report and an interesting read for a number of reasons – but I was looking for lessons for our Party.

What particularly struck me was that right upfront she explains why she joined the Labour Party as soon as she was appointed to lead the Inquiry. She states that she has always supported and voted for the Labour Party but that her various jobs (Civil Servant and then Director of Liberty) required her to be non-Party political.  She goes on to say that Labour is however the natural home for anybody concerned about human rights, that all significant legislative improvements in human rights in this country have happened on Labour’s watch, and that Labour has consistently been the first Party to accommodate immigrant voices and to achieve significant support among successive waves of immigrants -whether they be Jewish, Irish, BAME.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 33 Comments

Liberal Democrats need to have radical solutions to collapse of industrial communities

It is with more than a little sadness and apprehension that I watch the drawn-out self destruction of the Labour Party, as its leader, a man who I once respected and liked, seems hell bent on bringing Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition to its knees. The details of this destruction have been covered extensively in other places, and I won’t repeat them here, but one thread does deeply concern me as a liberal: the seeming blindness the Labour Party has to industry and the traditional worker.

Britain’s industrial past, I believe, played a key part in the result of the EU referendum, where those who feel disenfranchised by the crippling of their communities, and the industrial centre that were once at their heart, did what they felt they needed to in order to enact a change. Labour’s solution to this has, broadly, been to carry on as they were and to promise a restoration of this industrial past.

We live in an era of hard truths.

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LibLink: Shirley Williams: Bring all sides together to negotiate our future with Europe

While Tory and Labour parties rip themselves apart, the Liberal Democrats have spent a great deal of time offering ideas and solutions. The latest is Shirley Williams in today’s Observer:

She succinctly sums up the mess we are in:

With every passing day, the problems confronting the new prime minister multiply. The balance of payments worsens, the pound sinks against the dollar, the London property market, no longer attractive to ambitious young bankers and financial experts, declines and Brexit begins to look more and more like snake oil.

How do we face those challenges? Well, it needs strong government and opposition:

To get through the business of negotiating an alternative to membership of the European Union, and to do so without our country falling apart, will require patience, tolerance of different and often strongly held views and good, grown-up government. None of these were evident in the bitter, brutal referendum debate. We need not just good government but a serious, responsible opposition as well.

She draws parallels with the mess of the Labour Party in the 80s.

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What next for moderate Labour?

Corbyn has won. It’s clear that he will come out victorious in any leadership contest and the Chilcot report has put the final nail in the coffin of a serious challenge.

And more importantly the left of the Labour Party has won. Their project – to seize control of the levers of power within Labour and change the rules to turn it into a true hard-left socialist party – will take another couple of years, but it will almost certainly happen.

So Labour as a party of government is gone and Labour as a party of protest is here to stay. Despite my many and frequent disagreements with my political opponents in the red corner, I have to say that is a tragedy for our country.

The question moderate Labour members – including the vast majority of their MPs, all their MEPs and a large proportion of their councillors – are asking is, of course, “what next?”

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 41 Comments

Divide and rule

 

These are turbulent times in politics – dangerous and at the same time offering great opportunities to seize the initiative. The Lib-Dems have always been pro-European and we must lead the argument for a very close relationship with the EU post brexit. How to do this? Make a coalition pact with another Westminster party pre the next election.

The Labour party is in disarray with the majority of its members pro-Europe and anti Corbyn. Like all MPs, what they want, above all, is to retain their seats at the next election. This will be a wipe-out if Jeremy Corbyn is leader. So offer them the opportunity to canvass under a Liberal-Labour coalition, e.g. Labour (Lib-lab coalition). Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats would canvass under a Liberal-Democrat (Lib-lab coalition) banner. Both sides would determine where their support was strongest and refrain from putting up candidates against each other.

Posted in Op-eds | 33 Comments

The left should follow John McDonnell and stop being anti-austerity

When we use the word ‘austerity’, what do people hear?

Do they hear a reasoned argument for why Tory cuts are ideological and unnecessary? That cutting slower will prevent the economy stalling, will allow a faster recovery, and will reduce the deficit faster.

I fear not.

More likely, they hear someone who wants to get us into a never-ending spiral of debt.

Have you heard the quote: “If you’re putting the rent on the credit card month after month, things need to change”.

Posted in News | 83 Comments

A time to speak out?

It was in fact the mid-seventies but looking back it seems more like Victorian times. Rows and rows of little kids in red and grey uniform and we chirruped in unison from a hymn we were far too little to understand about how to “master self and temper, how to make our conduct fair, when to speak and when be silent, when to do and when forbear”.

When as Liberals should we be silent and when should we speak out?

Three examples for your consideration:

On the school run I walk alongside a mum, like me, whose family go back many, many years in this town. She has assumed we are on the same wavelength. We make small talk about how the town has grown and changed. Out she comes with: “There weren’t any black people here when we were young were there Ruth?” I hesitated, I admit I hesitated, the school run is not a political occasion but her tone and inference were clear and I replied as gently as I could by asking her if she had a problem with that (ie that the town was now multi-racial). She scuttled back into her shell and waffled about how “it” just showed how the town has changed. She has hardly spoken to me since.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 26 Comments

Another day, another time Labour doesn’t bother turning up to defeat Government in Lords

You would think, wouldn’t you, that if there was a chance to defeat the Government, especially if it was to do with helping out low paid workers, Labour Lords would show up, wouldn’t you?

Certainly that would be a triumph of hope over experience in this Parliament, given that they never bothered to kill of the tax credit rise when they had the chance. Nor, of course, did they turn up to secure votes at 16.

Again tonight, they failed to show up to vote for a Liberal Democrat motion to get rid of the cuts to Universal Credit from April 2017. These are exactly the same cuts that were going to happen to tax credits.

Speaking after the defeat of the Lib Dem motion (by 91 votes to 202, which is a pretty spectacular turnout for our peers, Lords Chief Whip Dick Newby said:

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Margaret Beckett reports on reasons for Labour’s defeat

Dame Margaret Beckett a former deputy and acting leader of the Labour Party has reported her findings on the reasons behind Labour’s loss of the election in 2015. We need to understand this dispassionately, alongside the reasons for our great losses, some of which will overlap.

Firstly, five reasons that Beckett doubts.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 58 Comments

Farron’s strategy to tackle Corbyn is all wrong

 

Recently Tim Farron responded to Jeremy Corbyn’s economic strategy by saying “Unfortunately Corbyn’s anti-business policies will ensure that no company has the budget to pay the wages their employees deserve”.

Now this is absolutely true and it’s very much Tim Farron’s approach to Corbyn and Labour at the moment. But it’s also absolutely the wrong approach to take.

The thing is, the public already thinks Labour aren’t economically competent and the Tories keep on ramming home that message. But since the public think that the Tories are economically competent then any attacks we make on Labour’s economic competence will just drive voters to the Tories.

In a nutshell, attacking Labour on the economy does nothing more than to annoy Labour voters who we want to win over while helping to turn undecided voters to the Tories.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 71 Comments

Labour Lords give up on votes at 16 in local elections

Yesterday in the House of Lords, during Parliamentary ping pong on the Cities and Local Government Bill, the Liberal Democrats tried to secure votes at 16. Labour peers, though, didn’t bother to turn up. This is yet another example of them being much more craven than you would expect of an opposition, especially one that thinks itself to be of a more radical hue than Labour has been for a while. This is a policy which was in their manifesto and they should have turned out to support it.

Ever since the tax credits vote in October, Labour peers seem to have got cold feet, allowing themselves to be intimidated by ministers.

Lib Dem peer Paul Tyler was far from impressed, saying:

This no show from Labour means that over a million people will not get a voice in future local elections.

Despite vowing to give 16 year olds the vote in their manifesto the Labour party are now shying away from standing by their policies.

It is clear that Labour do not have the drive or determination to act as the opposition that this country needs.

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Labour MPs find out that bullying is a thing

I guess it’s good to see Labour MPs like Alan Johnson and Jess Phillips have been calling out the protesters who have been having a go at their MPs who voted for the action in Syria. Jess, particularly, knows what it feels like when a metaphorical angry mob descends on you by social media and waxes lyrical about all the horribly violent things they would like to see happen to you. Stella Creasy knows what it’s like to have an angry mob descend on your office. Can you just imagine how frightening it might be to be in there as a member of staff with all that going on?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 28 Comments

Better the Centre-Right than the Hard-Left

 

Liberal Democrats, Conservative backbenchers and moderate Labour MPs are honourable Parliamentarians trying to resolve the Syrian situation. They understand that they cannot solve the situation overnight and with easy solutions. Contrast this fair-minded and well-intentioned approach with the black and white binary through which the hard-left narrates all foreign affairs.

American, Britain and Israel are the problem; all other states and non-state actors are either lesser evils or even victims, so their narrative goes. The anti-colonial hard left blame the west for every problem in present day Syria.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 54 Comments

Jeremy Corbyn’s kinder, more caring politics in action #2: social media commentary

Remember Jeremy Corbyn’s kinder, more caring politics where there will be no personal abuse? He said in his Labour conference speech:

I want a kinder politics, a more caring society. Don’t let them reduce you to believing in anything less. So I say to all activists, whether Labour or not, cut out the personal attacks. The cyberbullying. And especially the misogynistic abuse online. And let’s get on with bringing values back into politics.

To be fair to Corbyn, at least he said it. However, some of his party weren’t listening.

You just need to look at the Twitter feed of Labour MP Mike Gapes to see the abuse he’s getting from Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters for not toeing the party line. Like Corbyn clearly used to do for all those years Labour was in Government. To be fair, Corbyn himself has a more realistic outlook than some of his supporters, who are shaping up to rival the cybernats.

Gapes decided to go in for a lengthy spell of troll feeding yesterday and copped a load of abuse for his pains.

In today’s Times (£), Lucy Fisher uncovers evidence of the hard left seeking to deselect moderate Labour councillors:

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Working with other parties in Local Government – What is it about Labour?

I have been fortunate, if that’s the right word, to have managed to stay a councillor at various levels of local government since 1987. However, with advancing years playing a greater role, I am currently only serving on the Lincolnshire County Council. For over 28 years I have had to work with colleagues of all political persuasion and some who profess to have none, so I have a fair amount of experience of how they react to the fact that I just happen to be a Liberal Democrat. Perhaps ‘true blue’ Lincolnshire is not a good example from which to draw; but it’s all I know.

There is no doubt in my mind that it is far easier to get on with Conservatives than it has ever been my experience with Labour members. Perhaps it is because Tories expect to rule around here and, indeed, since the County Council was established as a local authority in 1973, until two years ago, only once before have the Tories failed to form an majority administration, namely between 1993 and 1997 when Labour and Lib Dems ran the show. Although I was only a humble Town and District Councillor at that time, I do recall talking to my County Council colleagues and being told what hard work it was trying to get agreement from the larger Labour group.

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It’s time to take on Labour

I recall a local by-election in an inner London area many moons ago. No names no pack drill although a few might work it out.

In that by-election we extensively campaigned by leafleting and knocking on doors. Our canvass was comprehensive and our campaign, by an excellent local community campaigner, was superb.

On the day there we had so many people that there wasn’t enough work to go round – thus, two people were telling on each polling station and knocking up was done by rota. Sounds brilliant doesn’t it – we must have won, mustn’t we? Well we came a strong 2nd behind Labour.

Who was the agent? Piers Corbyn brother of Jeremy.

It was similar to another national byelection. Again the same conditions prevailed. Again we came third to Labour.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 29 Comments

Defecting or coming home?

Jeremy Corbyn’s election has brought speculation about people on the right of the Labour party switching to the Liberal Democrats. Some of those comments make sense, but others don’t.

At its best, there are times when a genuine change of conviction makes a change of party into a home-coming. I think of the authenticity of Jacob Whiten, writing in Liberal Democrat Voice on his move from UKIP to the Liberal Democrats, and the enormous contribution of people like Shirley Williams, who came into the Liberal Democrats by moving from Labour to the SDP.

But defections can backfire, and the language of encouraging them can play badly, as in the case of a recent spoof email from Tim Farron to Chuka Umunna encouraging him to switch, written by Amol Rajan in the Evening Standard.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 15 Comments

Spin doctors urgently needed to manage an inspiringly authentic car crash

Yes, it’s another Corbyn post. Sorry about that.

But there’s the thing. Politics is absolutely fascinating at the moment. If Burnham or Cooper had won the Labour leadership, we would have had the same old Blair-like triangulating platitudes. Instead, we have inspiring authenticity from Jeremy Corbyn.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged | 45 Comments

I agree with Jeremy

 

Higher taxation for the wealthiest – tick

Greater public ownership – tick

An end to private involvement in the health service – tick

A national education service – tick

An agenda of “growth not austerity” – tick

Should I be embarrassed at finding that I agree with all of Jeremy Corbyn’s core beliefs?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 272 Comments

Let’s not jump on the “castigate Corbyn” bandwagon

Well, it looks like I’m going to have rivulets of egg yolk running down my face in a couple of hours. I have pretty consistently said through the Labour leadership contest that there’s no way Jeremy Corbyn is going to win. Labour members would flirt a bit with him but when it came to it, would plump for a safer option. They might get their ballot paper out with every intention of voting for him, but when it comes to actually putting that number 1 on the paper, some invisible force would make them bottle out of it at the last minute. It’s a bit like what a friend of mine calls “Ouija board voting.”

Yesterday’s London mayoral selection results show a pretty clear victory for a Sadiq Khan, a candidate backed by Ken Livingstone, so the logical conclusion is that Corbyn benefitted from their votes.

So how should Liberal Democrats react to a Corbyn victory? Well, seriously, we have our own house to put in order so we should get on with doing that. It doesn’t matter who leads the other parties if we can’t explain to the voters what we bring to the political smorgasbord. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 68 Comments

A Corbyn victory means there’s not much chance of a realignment of the left

It was Paddy Ashdown’s dream, and pre-1997 it looked to be tantalisingly within reach, yet with the imminent coronation of Jeremy Corbyn increasingly likely, the realignment of the anti-Conservative Left looks to be further out of reach than ever. Indeed, Corbyn’s happy band of followers have spent months labelling everyone else involved the contest as a ‘red Tory’, particularly Liz Kendall (whose father, let’s not forget, was a Liberal Democrat councillor) and including such known Conservative sympathisers as Harriet Harman and Neil Kinnock.

As Guido Fawkes has demonstrated, the Conservatives’ plan to deal with Corbyn is to paint him as a threat to Britain’s security, both at home (because of his views on economic policy) and abroad (because of his views on foreign policy). We have a real opportunity, if we want to take it, to own the acres of political space between a far-left Corbyn-led Labour Party and a Conservative government which will not be able to resist nudging further to the right (which would in turn put off that party’s own moderate supporters) – a space in which the majority of the British people have made their political home. We may have only eight MPs, but we are about to be gifted a huge opportunity to position ourselves politically between those two extremes and present ourselves as a moderate, sensible party which rejects both Corbyn’s reflexive ‘daddy knows best’ statism and the Conservatives’ love of taking away from those who have least to give.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 76 Comments

If left-wing is anti poverty, how is Corbyn left-wing?

Most left-wingers I meet think of left-wing politics as being about reducing poverty. If that’s left-wing, then I regard myself as a left-winger.

They usually only believe in a bigger state, because they think the state is the best way to help the weakest in our society.

That can be true, but it depends how far you take it.

In my previous article “Is evidence-based policy losing out to populism?”, I argued that two supposedly left-wing policies, which Jeremy Corbyn has proposed, could actually increase poverty. Raising the national minimum wage beyond the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission will probably increase unemployment, particularly for the unskilled who will increasingly have difficulty finding work. And printing money to fund capital projects will risk a return of the curse of high inflation.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 47 Comments

How did Labour get themselves into this mess?

So it looks like Jeremy Corbyn may be elected Leader of the Opposition and if that happens, Labour have no one to blame but themselves.

As we’ve witnessed the farcical antics of Her Majesty’s opposition let’s consider how they have reached this point.

There’s a line that runs directly from the Blair years to 2015.

The Blair years (despite the welcome policies of National Minimum Wage, LGBT equality and various other things) were really about kicking difficult and much needed economic and welfare reforms into the long grass hoping it would be `alright on the night`. Their handmaiden was an unsustainable boom propped up by the Chinese. Though it’s true to say that Labour didn’t directly cause the banking crash – they did enable it to affect our economy by stoking up a huge credit bubble and poor regulation of the banks. Thus a blind eye was turned to  an annual 3% deficit during a boom – all designed to gain ballot box receipts. The money had to run out sooner or later. Blair and his cohorts loved the housing bubble and some MPs even took advantage of it by flipping homes.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 45 Comments

We should weep at what is happening to Labour

Whoever wins the Labour leadership battle, it’s going to be a torrid time for Labour. There are already accusations and counter-accusations, threats of a legal challenge, and that’s before we know the result.Perhaps, this will help with the #LibDemFightback. It may well lead to a faster recovery in the polls, another surge of new members, and more by-election victories. But there is a terrible downside.

I remember the last time Labour self-destructed. When that happened, I was horrified. We had a Labour party that was unfit to be the Official Opposition, and a Conservative government that ruled in triumphalism for 18 years. Not everything the Tories did was bad, but some of it was appalling. The Poll Tax was only the most prominent of many policies which harmed the weakest in society, and sometimes the worst policies were small measures that the newspapers never noticed.

Posted in Op-eds | 98 Comments

How would Jeremy Corbyn actually lead the Labour party?

It was bad enough watching Ed Miliband rather out of his depth as leader of the Labour party. He seemed to sit back in his study quite a lot, talking with his inner circle. He did quite well at PMQs sometimes. But you got the impression that he wasn’t really fully in charge. This was made worse by unfortunate (and somewhat irrelevant) incidents such as the bacon sandwich episode.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 64 Comments

LibLink: Tim Farron – ‘There is only one opposition now – and it’s not Labour’

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Tim Farron raises prospect of a repeat of Labour’s disastrous 1981 split. He pitches for the LibDems to replace Labour as the only credible opposition to the Tories:

With just 20 days before Labour chooses its new leader, many who believe Britain needs a strong Opposition are holding their heads in their hands.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | 71 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJennie 21st May - 8:05am
    Crikey, that Rob Parsons post is depressing
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 21st May - 8:03am
    Still waiting for action on rights to leave for our own candidates!
  • User Avatargavin grant 20th May - 11:19pm
    I'll be there tomorrow. Back to the place I grew up and joined the Young Liberals 49 years ago!
  • User AvatarGordon Lishman 20th May - 9:09pm
    I thought it interesting that he was apparently recommended by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the role of wedding preacher.
  • User AvatarGordon Lishman 20th May - 9:06pm
    I never noticed the charm - perhaps I wasn’t worth the effort. He did once tell me the mnemonic he used to remember my name....
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 20th May - 9:00pm
    Ah, I see, Michael 1, you are putting the student fees in the context of the proposed lifetime learning account of perhaps £30,000 for every...