The changing landscape?

Sometime I really don’t understand people. Earlier I read a comment from a labour supporter regarding Theresa May’s announcement that she wants to ensure employees sit on company boards. The comment suggested that the conservative party lurching to the centre ground would be the worst thing to happen.

This really confused me. Why would someone of the centre left political persuasion think that a centrist government would be worse than a far right one? I think his argument was that it would make the tories more likely to win, which is an argument I disagree with. But even further than that, it seemed that he felt the tribal lines of party politics were more important than the policies being enacted by the government.of course I would prefer a Labour government,  but there won’t be an election until 2020, right now we need to be an effective opposition and pulling the tories to the left into the centre ground is positive for the country. 

I genuinely believe that Corbyn is the best chance we have at winning the next election. I think Theresa May thinks that too. Why else would she be running her leadership campaign based on idea put forward by Ed Miliband at the last election?  She sees his electability and despite being on the right, neoliberal, side of her party she is trying to put forward a centrist, one nation conservatism vision. I know I’d much rather have 4 years of that than 4 years of far right neoliberalism. 

Thatcher reportedly claimed her biggest achievement was Blair and New Labour, she realised that the having a right and a centre party would suit her better in the long run. When the tories were in they could push the real right wing ideas, and when they weren’t they could fight against the few slightly left ideas but embrace the centre right ideas that their opponents put forward.

After 2020, with Corbyn in leadership we could have a left wing government with a centrist opposition. Surely that is a win? Surely that is better than a centrist government with a right wing opposition? And flip them around, what looks better if we lose, a centrist government with a left wing opposition or a right wing government with a centrist opposition? I know which I would prefer.

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The next prime minister…..

The last couple of days my newsfeed has been full of people celebrating the fact that Michael Gove is out of the running for Prime Minister. The majority of those people are teachers and I guess it is understandable that they feel that way. Gove was a very divisive Education Secretary; he spent a lot of his time setting schools and teachers up in competition against each other while the majority of us like to work together in collaboration with one another. He also referred to many of us as “Enemies of Promise”, “The blob” and many other insulting things. This has led to many people despising him and everything he says or does. I take a different approach – I’m certainly not a fan of his and I very much despise some of his policies, but there are others that I approve of. You can read my review of his tenure as Ed Sec here.

That said, two weeks ago the idea of Gove leading this country would have appalled and disgusted me. Today the news that he won’t be leading it has thrown me into a pit of despair. Not because I have any real faith in his ability to create a fairer, more equal society, or a strong economy or anything else, but because he was by far the least worst option.

Now we face the certainty that our next Prime Minister will be either Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom, and that terrifies me.

Theresa May has spent her tenure at the home office espousing her feeling that we should withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. She has repeatedly lied about issues regarding it and her recent U turn on the topic reeks of an attempt to detoxify her brand. She also voted to repeal the Human Rights Act and voted against making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste. Andrea Leadsom’s voting record on these issue is almost identical as are Gove’s.

May has repeatedly voted against equal rights for homosexuals, voting against repealing section 28, voting against allowing homosexual couples to adopt and voting against allowing gay couples to use artificial insemination to conceive. She did manage to vote for equal marriage rights, but given her voting record on other acts of equality it would not be a big jump to assume that this was more down to following the government line as home secretary than being in favour of it.
Leadsom has been absent, or abstained, on all votes pertaining to equal rights, citing that she is against such things as Equal Marriage because she feels that it “hurts Christians” – something that I take exception to. Marriage in this country legal enshrines those involved into a relationship and bestows upon those involved certain legal rights, and no one should be excluded from that. Her argument seems to be that marriage “belongs” to Christians, however the idea of marriage actually pre-dates Christianity – a fact that clearly shows her ideas are nonsensical. Gove on the other hand was consistent in his votes for gay rights, voting for them at every vote he was present for.

All three candidates voted to cut benefits repeatedly, across all sectors. They all voted for lower taxes for the very rich (over £150,000 salary) but for raising regressive taxes =such as VAT and Fuel tax which hit the poorer sections of society much harder than the rich. The all voted together on the rest of the main policies, such as privatising Royal Mail, privatising the health and education services, restricting legal aid etc. I guess you would expect all this as it is a main part of tory ideology! Interestingly Gove and May voted for and against EU integration where Leadsom – “star of the leave campaign” always voted for increasing EU integration. Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, none of them supports assisted dying for the terminally ill.

What’s clear is that we are going to have a new prime minister, that prime minister will be a tory and will be a tory who sits considerably further to the right than David Cameron. Cameron moved his part from the realms of Thatcherism towards the “One nation Conservativism” that Disraeli had been fond of. Signs suggest that Gove has an egalitarian side and may have kept this up. May and Leadsom, however, do not. Whichever one wins we will see a lurch back to the right, to Thatcherism.
I think there is a horrible irony that when our new prime minister is in place she will be the second female prime minister, but she will also be the prime minister who is most against equality since Thatcher. The progress this country has made towards equality since 1997 will stop. I just hope that we don’t move backwards.

Sources:

Voting records from – http://www.theyworkforyou.com

Saving Labour?

There seems to be an odd feeling among certain folk in the labour party that the party somehow needs saving from Jeremy Corbyn. Bizarrely they claim that he has no support amongst the membership – apart from a few hard left usurpers- and none amongst the electorate. 

The labour party is a democratic socialist party, and as such there are clear rules regarding leadership challenges. Unlike the tory party, labour MPs don’t need to put a motion of no confidence in, they just need signatures of 20% of the parliamentary party to ignite a leadership bit. The takeover that is underway could,  if the aforementioned claims are true, have been achieved easily, in a nice, friendly, grown up fashion by presenting the 50 signatures and taking a vote to the members, who apparently don’t support him anyway, and winning the election. Easy.

This isn’t,  however, what the PLP decided to do. Ten months after he won the leadership, much to the distain of the PLP who had their own candidates, we have seen the implementation of a long planned coup. A couple that the telegraph reported would happen months ago. They reported what would happen and when, yet we are still expected to believe this was all a reaction to Mr Corbyns appearances in the referendum campaign. A campaign in which he made more appearances than anyone except Cameron and Boris, and a campaign in which he managed to convinced 2/3rds of labour voters to vote remain.

The favourite to mount a leadership challenge is Angela Eagle, who cried on TV as she quit her shadow cabinet role in the wake of the resignations giving them as part of the reason.  Only the website “angela4leader” had been registered before the resignations started. It just doesn’t add up.

It looks like the coup may have been started and aborted before, around the time of the Syria debate. Reports suggest it was aborted after he Oldham by-election which was won with an increased majority. Local elections were a success and other by elections have also seen increased labour majorities. These success come as he is chastised as “unelectable” by the coup and by the mainstream press.

I believe that those responsible have chosen to go down the humiliation route,  rather than the democratic challenge route,  because they didn’t think they could convince the majority of members to their way of thinking. I feel they believe he would have walked the members vote. What does that say about their electability? How are we supposed to trust them to deliver a majority in parliament of they can’t convince a majority of their own members? They have, in fact, made it much harder for themselves. I, and many others,  may have been persuaded to back some of those involved in a democratic challenge, but not now. I couldn’t back someone for leader who is willing to  try and humiliate someone in this way. On top of the potential members they have lost, we have seen 60000 new members this week,and I imagine a lot of them have joined to support the leader. Although the right wing media, in particular the mail and the telegraph,  did run stories urging their readers to song up too.

There is a massive irony at play here. Those involved in terms coup are claiming Corbyn unelectable but don’t seem to think they can beat him in a leadership election. They are claiming he isn’t tough enough on the tories,  yet he has scored victory after victory and right now, while they are weakest it is the coup itself that has taken the heat off them and given them a free ride. They claim that Corbyn is splitting the party, but all he is doing is the job he was elected to do, he has even offered those responsible a way back from this and has stated repeatedly that he will happily go if they beat him in a leadership election.

I wish they’d stop their humiliation and either put up a candidate, or take the offer to work behind the leader in a united labour party offering a real alternative to conservative politics.

Referendum and the future

​I’ve just been writing some reflections over on my education blog and the post came around to my views on the referendum. I’ve taken those views and recreated them here, along with an expansion on them.

I’m devastated by the referendum result. I thinks it’s a disaster for the country for so many reasons. The economy will suffer, workers rights will suffer, the rich diverse culture that we have in Britain will suffer, it will affect touring musicians which may mean many UK based ones will give it up and less overseas stars grace our shores. 

Then there’s the rise in hate crime. In the first week after the referendum there were 300 reported hate crimes against non brits. Up from 60 on a normal week. I find both those figures abhorrent, but the larger one particularly so. To me it shows that the racist and xenophobic underbelly of our society now feel they have been legitimised. It was always going to happen they way Nigel Farage and his cronies have spent the last two decades selling the EU debate as “we want our country back”. 

And the fallout continues. David Cameron has stepped down – I thought I’d be happy when his reign ended, but this wasn’t the end I had in mind. The potential leaders are all far worse. May has been at war with human rights for ever and was behind the snoopers charter. Fox makes  Cameron  look positively socialist, Crabb is a homophones who has repeatedly moved to quash equality and espoused some vile views and Gove was responsible for some of the worst reforms we have seen. Leadson I know little about, but my preliminary research has not offered much hope.

Thoughts on the EU

The other day I was asked for my views on the referendum. Below is a quick reponse:

On the question of the referendum I’d say I’m in favour of staying in. There are tons of reasons, 1 in 10 British jobs is directly dependent on our EU membership, the EU takes around half our exports, the green laws the EU pass have cleaned up Britain no end – just look at the sea in Blackpool these days compared to when we were kids. I lime the freedoms of travel and the fact that I could go work in any number of countries with no trouble. The fact that the EU have ensured we have equal pay for women and outlawed sexism and other discrimination in workplaces.  working time and other directives to ensure fair workplaces. The majority of scientific research that happens in the UK is funded directly from the European parliament, grants that would otherwise go to Russian or French or German (etc) universities.

Plus there’s a combined approach to policing,  the European arrest warrant etc meaning that career criminals can’t go live on the Costa del sol with their ill gotten gains when they get police heat, which is something that happened a lot in the 70s and 80 and 90s. This combined approach works elsewhere, on a diplomatic level the EU has much more power than the. UK would alone. This 3 tends to trade deals and other deals that benefit British consumers keeping prices down. The EU works hard along side the UN to bring peace and democracy to many nations. Plus the EU has taken on multinational companies but alone Britain would be far too reliant on them to curb their power.

I’ve yet to hear a strong argument for leaving, in fact I’ve not heard one yet that doesn’t boil down to “but I don’t want eastern Europeans living next door”, or “but turkey are looking to.join the EU and Turkey is full of muslims”. Neither of which seems a good argument for losing the benefits listed above!

Democratic Socialist Party

This post was originally published here on Labour Teachers on 2nd January 2016.

Labour is a Democratic Socialist Party. It says so on my membership card. It’s a party built on an internal democracy. Historically, policy decisions have been made by the membership, rather than the small proportion of that membership who sit in the commons. We have the national policy forum and we have policy decisions made at conference. Parliamentary candidates are selected by the membership, democratically, before they stand for election.

I know all this, but earlier this week I read this piece from Tarjinder Gill (@teach_well) who was arguing that these things actually make the Labour party less democratic. I read this albeit well written piece with a bit of bemusement. The argument was that actually these PLP members have been elected by the general public in an election and as such have more of a mandate to set policy than the wider membership, and more than our democratically elected leader.

I feel that this is a twisted an flawed logic. Granted they have been elected by the populous, but there are many reasons why the logic is flawed. Firstly, the majority of these MPs were elected more because they were standing for the Labour party rather than their own personal policy views. I believe that these MPs who have been so outspoken against the leadership understand this, or they’d be able to break away safe in the knowledge that they would be returned as independents, or members of an alternative party, in 2020. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they should, I feel there’s room in the party for all the views and that we can look to work together, I do think that some of them need to stop writing vile horrible things about their leader and members though.

When it comes to policy decisions one wonders why these PLP members are so scared about the membership having a say. Surely if they believed their policies were best they’d be able to stand by them in a debate and get across to members why they should side with them? These are the members who selected them to run in the first place after all.

The article, and many of the things we have seen in other media written by Corbyn’s detractors, tries to conjure up an idea of him as a Stalinist, a totalitarian of the hard left. He’s not, he’s a democratic, keen to make the democracy even more democratic by removing the unelected elements we still have and keen to make his party even more democratic. He’s also not “hard left”, he’s further left than any leader recently, and is further left than the other main parties (and so the labour leader should be!) But he’s not hard left. In the party of Bevan, of Atlee, of Keir Hardie, he’d have been considered a moderate.

The internal democracy within the Labour party is a strength, not a weakness. Policy decisions, selection decisions and other decisions can be made together, through discussion and debate. That’s what Corbyn wants, a party that works together to build a better future for all. I just wish that everyone within the party would get behind him and engage with these debates to ensure their view is heard and the policies are the best for all. This would be much better than the vile attacks we are seeing on our leader and his supporters, and the equally vile retorts that some of his supporters feel the need to issue.

Close the borders?

This post was first published here on Labour Teachers on 18th November 2015.

My heart sank with the news that came out of Paris.  The sheer terror that the people involved were faced with. The loss of life, the domain and suffering forced onto the families of those who were killed. It’s horrifying. These were just regular folk, going about their business. Many at a rock concert enjoying the music they love, some at a football match, possibly living the dream to have scored a ticket to such a big match. Others going about their normal business. This is a tragedy of the highest proportions, made worse by the fact that it was ignited by humans. People who made a concious choice to force that pain onto others.

After my initial sadness and horror I felt a second wave coming. That wave came with the realisation of what was going to come next. The racists were gearing up, sharpening their knives,  they saw the opportunity to ride the wave of horror and try to legitimise their own agenda. “Close the borders”, “stop letting them in”, “the refugees aren’t really suffering – they’re ISIS soldiers sent to kill us.” I’ve seen tons of sentiments along these lines and it worries me completely. Being a sain doesn’t make someone aren’t terrorist. Being Muslim doesn’t make someone a terrorist. These attacks by ISIS and other similar groups are commonplace in the countries these refugees are fleeing from, that’s why they’re trying to escape. This is surely a sign that we need to help more. The suggestion of closed borders is a ridiculous overreaction. Not only would it stop us aiding refugees it would also stop important roles in our society being filled, such a s doctors and nurses. It would harm the economy to stop holiday makers in, it would mean cancelling international sporting fixtures and would mean new international signings weren’t allowed.

People are also using this to perpetuate their own Islamophobia and try to impose that on others. I’m an atheist, I have many issues with things said and believed by every religion, but I don’t think that makes them all terrorists and I don’t understand how anyone can jump to that conclusion. I know many Muslims and I know they would be the first to condemn the actions in Paris.

I’ve also seen people question why the press have covered these tragic events more than the tragic events in Japan. The truth of that matter is that the tragic events in Japan are a consequence of nature. The people of the area know earthquakes are likely and are trying to live with them, looking to prevent them, predict them and minimise their damage. The loss of life is still a horrific tragedy, but everything possible was done to try and avoid it, in Paris choices were made by people that inflicted the loss of life. And that’s why the press have focused on this event more.

These acts are immoral and indefensible. We need to remember that and hope to move forward towards a world where this doesn’t happen. The way to do that isn’t through racism, it isn’t through a knee jerk reaction of closing all the borders and it isn’t through the systematic carpet bombing of Muslim countries.