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We are a crusade or we are nothing

Funny how the forgotten words of Harold Wilson fit so well in this modern era.

I think of all the terms used to describe the Labour Party, at the moment, a crusade is probably not one that would come up with too great a frequency.

The incipient panic (among policy twonks and politicians) that flows whenever strong terms invade the blandness of well spun political dialogue is probably a key to the problems we face.  We being a political society.  When all the parties play by the same triangulation and focus group code it is small wonder that the differences seem marginal at best.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not calling for a ‘Red’ revolution or a ‘freedom for Tooting’ type of political dialogue.  I am, however, sure that blandness and spin to appeal to ‘mondeo man’ or ‘Joe the plumber’  is a self-defeating spiral that has left an electorate disillusioned in the extreme and one which is disengaging with the current parties.  The impact of this schism is a rise in the extremity parties and single issue parties.  Democratically reflective of what the electorate think? probably not.

So back to my crusade (in the week that the last of the Jarrow marchers passed away), when did the zeal for change get lost in the sea of management speak?  When did pragmatism become the master and principle become the expediently forgotten relative?  I can pinpoint it fairly closely.

The morning after John Major managed to beat Neil Kinnock in the General election.  It seemed to many on the left that it was impossible to shift the Tories from power without appealing to middle england voters.  A wooing as it were.  A ‘Don’t frighten the horses approach’ that tied Tony & Gordon to the Tory spending plans for a while.  A ‘trust us’ we’ll be better Tories approach.

Living standards for many have risen over the years of  selfish neoliberal economics and some have become fabulously wealthy.  I for one am not comfortable with the massive gap in distribution.  We have more ‘Stuff’ but that merely hides the long slow decline for many as worklessness bites.

So Crusade.  For what? Wilson had the big fights for better workers and civil rights, better living standards, workplace improvement and raising living conditions after the post war era.  funnily enough we have similar fights.  Although these seem to have been forgotten.

Workers rights are being eroded, benefits and welfare support under attack, disabled being vilified in the press as scroungers, pensioners choosing between heating and eating, unemployment structural and difficult to shift, hopelessness among the young, a crisis of confidence in the establishment.  A lack of social housing or care for the elderly, mistreatment of the mentally ill,foodbanks the only growth in the economy, flatline growth,  the list can go on and on.

Into all of this we are fed a diet of lowest common denominator populist drivel with a ‘what plays well in the press’ approach.  If a different approach is used, the vociferous criticism soon shuts it up.  Johann Lamont found this out quickly.  Asking hard questions on affordability but got punished by the spectre of means testing.

Why then is the radical party of the UK (ie the Labour party) so timid?  Because we have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory before.  The Sun killed Kinnock after the Sheffield Rally and we have been carefully media friendly ever since.

Balls and Miliband (et al) are trying a ‘don’t spook the Souff’ approach which may work but will not yield a crusading Labour Government.  It will yield a slightly more left approach and a pragmatic core.  Not at all whats needed.  This same don’t scare the horses approach is the same one used in the Independence referendum campaign for Yes.  Don’t panic it’ll all be the same.  No it wouldn’t and hopefully the electorate won’t be taken in.

So I say to Ed, Ed, Andy, Douglas, Harriet and the rest, its time to put on our campaigning boots and drive an agenda that is radically different from the Coalition programme.  Be bold on principles and keep banging on about where we want to go.  Political triangulation is what has cost us over the longer term (membership and vote declined rapidly after 97) its a tool but not a roadmap.  Focus groups need to be replaced by doorknocking face to face interaction.  Activism is the key.

We made some reforms, now its time to fight to make reforms that matter.

Crusade or nothing.  It’s a simple choice.

 

 

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A raw nerve

For me it is very simple.

We have a welfare state that is supposed to be a safety net to catch those in need.  It isn’t an anti work thing.

My Mother was a divorcee (oh the shame) twice over with three kids and on the social.  Absent dad, free school meals and pretty much skimping from week to week.  All the hallmarks of the broken home that used to be bandied about as a badge of low expectation.  Sadly that broken home would be considered not too bad when compared to the chaos of some families today.

When we (I say we, but really when I was older – being the youngest) were older she went back to work in a factory working night-shift to provide.  All good so far.  There were jobs in the area.  She managed.  We got by and she sacrificed her wants to meet our needs.  And we never really knew we were poor (people had less then and the world was in black and white, cue hovis music)

Fast forward to today and the situation for many is now a life of benefits with no prospect of that changing any time soon.  It isn’t fecklessness or laziness but systematic economic policy failure over the last 40 years.  Jobs have moved and changed leaving some areas as vacuums offering very low skill and low paid jobs (if any at all).  Many can’t just get on their bike or pull their socks up or strive not shirk.  The environment they have to navigate isn’t like that.

There are many issues around employment and poverty but the one thing that gets right to me is the need for foodbanks.  I’ll say it again, foodbanks.

Alms for the poor is the medieval equivalent.  Bring out the poor to the soup kitchens.  Foodbanks show me that the inequality and dysfunction of our society is out of control.

In an economy with a safety net designed to support the vulnerable of our society we find it doesn’t and thousands of people are choosing between heating and eating.  Or choosing between feeding themselves or feeding the kids.  Intolerable just isn’t strong enough.

All the defecit-blaming, skiver bashing and its-for-your-own-good Austerity does not deflect from the central fact – thousands of people in our country cannot afford food.

CANNOT AFFORD FOOD.

It has now become cause celebre and a club to beat Dave-call-me-dave and his coterie of disconnected millionaires with, of course it might have more weight if the wielder of the club wasn’t a millionaire too.

People who use foodbanks are desperate and the attack on their self-esteem is relentless.  Their need is not imaginary or exaggerated.  Just imagine, for a moment,  that it has all gone wrong and like old mother Hubbard your cupboard is bare.  What then? you have a job but have no money and have to soldier on knowing it’s not enough.  How would you feel about approaching a foodbank or being referred to one?

So just keep that in mind the next time welfare recipients are cast as living the life of Riley.  Some might even be happy with it but most are closing their curtains at night desperate and distraught.  It’s both the squeezed middle and the working poor and you cannot tell just by looking.

So here we are, 21st Century, 7th largest economy in the world with a distorted distribution of wealth in our society and we have over 200 000 people being fed through foodbanks.  It’s hurting not working.  Of course those of us better off won’t need to use foodbanks or be impacted by the changes IDS makes to benefits and we would be forgiven for not realising the tidal wave of misery that will sweep over many of our countrymen (and women).

For me this isn’t political, it is societal.  Proof of a society that has ceased to work.  My generation was mobilised to feed the world in the 80’s, how sad that this winter we need foodbank networks to feed our own.  We have come such a long way, haven’t we.

In the society I want no one goes to bed hungry for want of food, cold for want of energy and scared for a lack of security.  Foodbanks ought to be unnecessary but they are not, its time we were all working to make the need for them extinct.

So while punch and Judy go toe-to-toe over the poor, foodbanks will be taking up the slack.

Realpolitik in action.

 

One Nation? What does that actually mean?

Frankly, I have no idea.

The triangulation wonks seem to think it will play well in the marginals and the Soufff.

The problem of modern-day politics is the attempt to appeal to the widest demographic of ‘couldn’t care less’.  It is this whoring to attract the voters who have no ideological allegiance that has left my party in a quandary.

Perpetual opposition (allegedly) or government without a principle guiding the choices we make.

Ed is a very sincere chap, who delivered a great speech (in terms of delivery) but it was utterly devoid of connection to the left.  couple with that the inability of Chukka Umunna (touted as a future leader) to remember that we are a Democratic socialist party not a social democrat party.

I worry about the strangest of things.

Pragmatic – anything to get into power – is the sign of a weak set of arguments.  Doing whatever is populist works in the very short-term with massive hangover damage.  Blairs ‘New Labour’ drove away much of the leftist core and replaced that support with those whose motivation was based on ‘what’s in it for me?’.  The path of vote purchase and appeasement.

This is not the way to a progressive change bringing a steady improvement in inequality and better living standards for all.

What we are being offered is better managers who are more competent to manage decline.  A total and utter capitulation in terms of aspiration for a better society.  Mind you, the current coalition are a complete shambles #omnishambles.

So where does that leave me (and others)?

A party leadership whose strategy is heading in the wrong direction?

A party leadership made up of too many career politicians, who have followed a fast track to MP-dom?

A south-east focus to win at all costs regardless of where we have come from?

A we’re slightly less tory than the other mob?

We have a new badge ‘One nation Labour’.  Oh that’s all right then.

A government which doesn’t stand for special interest groups or sections.  A business focus on ‘good capitalism’ and many more utter bollocks like platitudes to fill the air.

As for the crew – Liam Byrne, Ed balls et al, these guys are neo-liberal to the core and prepared to work the system to manage a labour government in name only.  They are pretty much indistinguishable from the ‘wet’ wing of Maggie T’s Tories.  This is so not good enough.

Members up and down the country are left somewhat befuddled by this ‘One nation’ stuff, hoping it means more left-wing and sadly about to find out it doesn’t mean that at all.  Repeal the NHS act (well done Andy Burnham), pay freeze to continue (FFS ed) and many other missed opportunities to move forward.  Help people get on the housing ladder? FFS, build rentable houses and drive the heat from profiteering landlords.

We need to return to the land of left-wing politics and stop being ashamed.

We have capitulated in the argument about social justice, we have stopped trying.

Sorry, I haven’t and thousands in the party haven’t given up.  Time the leadership reflected the members not a narrow sectional interest of ex spads.

watching conference through my fingers from behind the couch.

Just over a year ago, I blogged about why I am a Labour supporter (and now a Local Councillor).

The Labour party conference always creates a buzz and a great deal of headlines many of which (in the past) have had me wanting to bang my head on a desk.  A few ‘Oh FFS!’ and much stronger are uttered at the inept miss steps that can occur.  Sometimes I wish a news blackout could prevent my party from shooting itself in the foot.  Will this year be any different?

A lack of Clarity on the NHS bill repeal was the beginning of my anxiety until Andy Burnham came out categorically and said it would be repealed by an incoming labour government.  I began to breathe a little easier but since then I have begun to have (obviously disloyal) doubts that Ed Miliband will drop a well-intentioned but catastrophic clanger between now and conference end (bad capitalism anyone?).

He is getting better (but will it ever be enough? going by the polling data it seems unlikely) but I am just unsure that his articulation of what labour stands for and why he is Labour will be closely related to mine.

When he says he is not for any sectional / special interest group (that might be great triangulation) it makes me wonder where the leadership of the party thinks it is heading.  We were founded by a sectional interest group.  The Unions.  Times have moved on and this isn’t the only group we should be representing – what about representing the weakest and poorest in our society?  Those failed by decades of poor economic policy?  What about representing those disabled and currently being treated abyssmally by an uncaring system run by a profit motive?  What about young people struggling to make their way in a harsh employment landscape?

It is all sectional interest groups.  Many of which we really need to show solidarity with. AND be vocal about it.

Many of these sectional interest groups are paying massively for the failure of another group (I won’t indulge in Banker bashing today) and we are too silent about their plight.

So while I understand that without an offering to the marginals that won’t scare them off, Ed needs to think closely about what rank and file members of the Labour party understand as ‘being Labour’.

For what it’s worth he can sneak a peek at mine and add to it if he wants (arrogant or what  😉  obviously Ed will be reading my blog.)

(extract from previous post)

https://grumpyscotspolitico.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/a-question-that-i-needed-to-be-able-to-answer/

 

I am Labour because in the society I want, the weakest are treated with dignity and respect and not left behind.

I am Labour because no-one in my society should go to bed cold for want of fuel, hungry for a lack of food and scared for a want of security.

I am Labour because everyone’s talent deserves a chance to shine and the barriers of birth and privilege should be removed.

I am Labour because the efforts of the many should reward the many.

I am Labour because a good education should be for all our children and not just for those who can afford it.

I am Labour because injustice and inequality need to be opposed and overturned.

I am Labour because I want to change my party to be the Labour Party it should be.

There are thousands of I am Labour because statements for me.

I am Labour and I don’t always agree with the party.  Sometimes we just have to disagree.

BOJO is on the march

A tory tweeter once told me that Boris will be part of the political landscape for years to come.  I was ridiculing the man as a buffoon and utterly out of his depth.  Apparently I was wrong.

The mood music surrounding Boris and Dave has shifted over recent weeks.

Boris came out of the Olympics with a real boost in his popularity (not just with voters but with the media) especially after he got stuck on the zip wire.  His denials are becoming less and less credible as he starts to comment on areas that Dave would prefer he left well alone.

This weekend has seen the print media following the online twittersphere and blogosphere mood music and starting to consider seriously the rise of BOJO.

The story of Zach Goldsmith offering to stand aside over 3rd runway at Heathrow is just grist to the mill.

His comments over Greening and the reshuffle impact on Heathrow (and the review to follow) suggest a positioning strategy that is beginning his long trek to replace Dave.

Boris isn’t likely to worry about being seen as populist (after all it is his stock in trade) and it is this ‘he’s just like us’  myth that he cultivates effectively with Londoners.  Dave will be hoping that Boris stays out of the commons for a while yet.  He has enough problems with his failed policies and weak leadership.  The differences between them are stark in presentation.

BOJO shoots from the lip while Dave tries to be politically on message.  Dave is coiffed and smooth while Boris is untidy and rough.  Boris is the perfect anti-blair mode of politician.

Boris is on his own ‘long march to Finchley’  and I suspect he will be leader of the Blue Brigade in the (near-ish) future.  However, the tory machine will stick with Dave for the next Election (too close to change nags now) and hope for the best.  If Ed Miliband pulls off an incredible victory Boris will be in quick as a flash, if Dave manages to cling on Boris will have to wait.

The Dave and Nick show will have the curtain called on it in 2015 (if not sooner) and depending how damaged Dave is will determine how readily Tory HQ will turn to Boris.  Self-interest means that they will stick with a winner until he stops winning.

The dearth of alternatives to Dave (from the current feckless mob) leaves BOJO as the next great Blue hope.

The mood music and westminster two-step has begun and for me there will be only one winner, the (very) heavyweight that is Boris.  Dave’s jacket is on a shooglie peg  just when it drops off is another question.

One thing is for certain another Bullingdon bull is crashing around in the Westminster firmament and there aren’t many ‘big beasts’ left to control him.

Omnishambles, Giddernomics and Ed Miliband

It’s funny how a word (or more accurately a hashtag) sums up the state of a government.
#omnishambles is the summed up consciousness of the performance of this coalition government. The casualties started with David Laws, continued through Liam Fox, Adam Werrity and Andy Coulson to the mess of Jeremy Hunt, Adam smith and Theresa May.
Within 24 months this government has lurched like a drunken sailor through a variety of events, policies and U turns. Failing repeatedly to offer any vision and cohesion of direction.
Welfare reform, cuts, economic failure, riots, student fees, selling off forests the list goes on and on and on.
Omnishambles is a fair description of this ship of fools.
#Giddernomics a second hashtag that has a resonance across the twitterverse. George Osborne has presided over a rather desperate economic performance. All of which he’d like to blame someone else for. His choices have caused this double dip in GDP. A risk that was predicted by Gordon Brown and mocked by the combined right-wing press.

The roots of the problem cannot be laid at his feet but his economic vision isn’t one that is bearing any fruit or is ever likely to. An export led recovery may be a suitable direction but not one that is likely in the current climate. The cuts agenda and deficit reduction follows the neoliberal ideology an ideology that is beginning to look threadbare and unsuccessful.  Perhaps in another time #giddernomiccs would have been more successful but all chancellors have to deal with the environment they inherit and the reality as it is, not that which would be needed for their plans to work.

The tax cut from 50 to 45% is a political blunder that is very difficult to sell to an electorate that feels that we are not ‘all in this together’.  It may indeed be more tax efficient but it is politically damaging.  Even when he gets something right it all goes wrong.

This government is rudderless and David Cameron is #nottheone.  His own party backbenchers have been sceptical since the beginning and Nadine Dorries hit the nail on the head calling them ‘out of touch’ and ‘poshboys’.  He certainly doesn’t have his troubles to seek and I thought the Coulson mess was bad.

And so I come to the last part of the title.

Labour is climbing in the polls but people are just not sure of Ed nor of our economic competence.  The 2 years of  ‘All labour’s fault’ will be hard to shake off and has managed to stymie Ed’s progress against Dave and the Gang.  He lands some blows but no sign of a knockout punch.   Will he grow into the job?  He is growing but will it be enough?  Polls for the South of england indicate a large gap and not in his favour.  The fixed parliament duration has turned out to be a blessing in disguise giving us time to reorganise and Dave and the gang time to implode.

So against a backdrop of economic failure and a leaderless shambles Labour are struggling to forge ahead effectively (incredible but true).  It is beginning to look like the early 90’s where we couldn’t kill off the fag-end of the Thatcher government and the mess of Major.

I, like many, am just not convinced.  Another hung parliament next time?  God I hope not.

 

BskyB debate – enter Gordon Brown MP

Well, a debate where they are all in agreement would not at once seem to offer much in the way of entertainment.  However how wrong could I have been.

Ex PM Gordon Brown (who had already waded in to the NOTW (#Hackgate) row by spilling his own beans about News International and how they hacked/blagged/ obtained his and his son Fraser’s information.

I can honestly say that he was back to his best.  Powerful and articulate and not hampered by the burden of being PM.  He cracked jokes that were funny (not uncomfortable) and his smiles weren’t forced or like a rictus grin.  Standing there in the third row of a crowded commons towering above those around him, he looked like the big clunking Labour fist that Tony Blair described him as.

The Government benches were filled too but were missing their Leader.  The PM decided he had better things to do than answer any questions that might embarass him further.

PMQ’s and a clash with Ed Miliband over Coulson, a statement to the house about enquiries and he needed a wee lie down.  I suppose it was too much to hope that he might take part in an open debate where there was no bell or limit to the questions that might be asked.

Add to that the Guardian editor stated that the PM’s answers during PMQ’s were misleading.  So no real surprise that a commons baying for blood wouldn’t see the PM, just his patsy Jeremy Hunt.

There was some good stuff from Ed Miliband, Chris Bryant and others but the star of the show was Gordon Brown.

BskyB deal may be dead for the moment, and a judicial review making the issue go away for a while but Dave cannot rest easy.  His jacket is most definately on a shaky peg.

One thing is for certain, the PM is mired in #NOTW muck and his hope that a judicial review would embarass Labour into backing off (after all we were in Govt for 13 years) looks like a failed strategy.  Gordon is more than happy to defend his record.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14144968

I hope that this will see the return to the house of Gordon Brown, a true political colossus, his input and gravitas is very much missed.

I am so glad I watched it now, truly one of the best speeches / debates in a coons age.

This #hackgate gets more like #watergate everyday.  see you later Dave.