Labour Leadership

I’ve just watched the Sunday Politics Labour Leadership debate, it’s good to see a platform for these hustings that everyone can access. I thought the debate was conducted in good spirit from most of the candidates although I wish it had been someone other than Andrew Neil in the Chair.

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn kept up his consistent anti – austerity message, favouring a growing economy over a shrinking state as the best means to decrease the defecit. He is clearly a contender who holds true Labour values of equality,  fairness and democracy and as leader would certainly take the party back to its roots. I thought he looked confident, knew his stuff and was unphased by Neil’s constant badgering. I particularly liked his answer to the question “would you have any of your leadership opponents in the shadow cabinet?” Which was to suggest all ministerial roles be decided democratically. He spoke of a need to add in more bands on housing to raise fair taxes. He spoke of a need to build more council houses and therefore bring down the housing benefit bill and he spoke of a need to tackle tax avoidance and evasion which costs the economy billions.

Liz Kendal

At the other end of the spectrum we had Liz Kendal, she’s a self proclaimed “Blairite” and is certainly trying to paint herself as a modern day Tony Blair. I think there is a difference though. Blair built a growing economy, he appealed to the middle class then handed the money to a true socialist in the exchequer who spent it on improving education, health, infrastructure and creating a greater Britain for all. Kendal sounds more like Cameron, with her repeated insistence that the party needs to adopt the policies of the Tories and to appeal to their voters, as well as questioning her opponents on how they would fund not cutting services that haven’t yet been cut,  I was left thinking “but they’re being paid for at the moment”.

Andy Burnham

Burnham spoke extremely well on a number of issues, he certainly seems to be in near constant agreement with Corbyn and looks like he wants to reconnect with traditional Labour values. He’s prepared to accept he has made mistakes and genuinely seems to want a better future for all. He, with Corbyn and Cooper, spoke vehemently against the cutting of child benefit and tax credits for third (and later) children but then stated he was “in favour of the principle of the benefits cap”. This seemed not to fit with some of his other views and I was left wondering if on some issues he was playing lip service to policies he thought were necessary to win the leadership of the party, then the country.

Yvette Cooper

Yvette spoke of the need to celebrate all that Labour achieved while in government. She holds true centre left values and wants to improve the country for all concerned. She expressed deep worries over the recent budget and how it will hit hard working families the hardest. She spoke of her pride in the diversity of the nation and linked this to her own heritage.

There was consensus between Burnham, Cooper and Corbyn on a number of issues, although the latter was the only one consistent in an anti – austerity message. It was good to see the debate and I hope to see more in the contest, to enable all Labour members and supporters to make the most informed choice.

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Whatever’s Left?

Back in February I went to see Billy Bragg (@billybragg) play at an event organised by The People’s Assembly (@pplsassembly) against the Coalition governments austerity policies. The event on the whole was amazing,  Billy was awesome as ever, The Farm (@TheFarm_Peter) did a guest spot, a fantastic local Manchester band (the name escapes me, if you know it please let me know and I’ll ammend) opened the show and I discovered an artist who has fast become one of my favourites.

Her name is Grace Petrie (@gracepetrie) and she plays a politically fulled folk punk style (check out her website here). Her set in the night blew us away and the next day I ordered a CD of hers entitled “Mark my words” which has rarely left the CD player of my car since. The whole family love it, to the extent that while most 2 year olds walk around singing “Twinkle Twinkle” or “Let it go” mine sings “The revolution will not be televised” and “Emily Davison Blues“! Mark my words is a phenomenal album, and I’d suggest everyone give it a listen and purchase a copy.

A few weeks later we ordered “Tell me a story” which is another superb album, and the song “Farewell to welfare” contains some of the most mature and poignant lines I’ve ever heard in any song. Which is quite amazing considering Grace must only have been in her early 20s when it was written.

This weekend an eagerly awaited package fell through the door. It contained “Whatever’s left” – Grace’s brand new album, and one she promised was her most political yet. It is a stark commentary on the life of a young person in Coalition Britain and certainly suggests a worrying future now the Tories have everything their own way.

This is possibly the strongest in “You pay peanuts you get monkeys“, which includes the refrain “you pay peanuts you get monkeys you pay nothing you get nowt.” And such lines as: “workers of the world stand up and leave them in no doubt, a living wage for workers or we’ll vote you bastards out.”

The song “Revolutionary in the Wrong Time” alludes to the decline in workers rights we’ve seen and how toothless we are to protect what little we have left – “I heard a rumour there was power in the Unions but that was yesterday.” And that was written before the tories started their new attacks.

The songs “Overheard” and “I do not have the power to cause a flood” speak out against the bigotry and inequality that is unfortunately all too rife in today’s society.

The title song “Whatever’s left” encapsulates Grace’s anger at what has gone and is perhaps summed up best with the line “It’s like a bad dream, when I see the mess that the bastards made of the NHS”.

As with the other two albums, it’s not all political songs, and “Ivy” written about her new born nice is an amazing ode to family and love.

As with the other 2 Grace Petrie albums I own, I cannot fault a single song. The album is fantastic from start to finish – and in my opinion even better than its predecessors. If you’ve never listen to Grace, I urge you to do so. She’s a phenomenal talent, with an inspirational world view who’s doing it herself, without a label of any sort, in true punk style.

Labour Leadership – Nominations Close Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the last day that Labour MPs can nominate leadership candidates. Currently three candidates  (Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendal) have received the 35 nominations needed to be included in the debate and on the ballot. Mary Creagh has withdrawn from the contest so the only candidate left who has yet to receive the 35 nominations is Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn is the candidate who is positioned furthest to the left of the party and is the only one who has taken an anti – austerity stance. He has currently got the backing of 21 MPs but needs 14 more by tomorrow.

I think it would be a real shame if Corbyn wasn’t to make it onto the ballot. There are many, vocal,  members on the left if the party calling for his inclusion and there are many disillusioned supporters or former supporters who see Corbyn as the leader that they could support. The other three cover the centre (Burnham and Cooper) and the right (Kendal) of the party so including a candidate to cover the left of the party would at least give them a voice in the leadership hustings and the wider debate.

I look forward to the debate, to see where the Labour party are heading and what they plan to do in opposition. I’m not sure who I’d like to lead them, I’m waiting for the debate ti rake place, although I’m certainly leaning towards Corbyn and definitely wouldn’t want Kendal, in fact I often wonder why she even joined the Labour party when she seems much more aligned politically to the Tories.

The SNP and Hunting Bans

A lot gas been said this week on the topic of the SNP and the impending repeal if the hunting ban in England and Wales and it seems that people in some quarters seem to be latching onto it as a stick to bash them with. It’s worrying for many reasons, not least the fact that I feel the same people will bash them with it whichever way they decide to go.

As a party vehemently opposed to hunting and killing foxes with dogs, the SNP will come under fire if they abstain. It will be pounced upon by all to bash them for “deserting” their beliefs on fox hunting.

However, they are a party fighting a devolution agenda. They want the rest of the UK to stay out of decisions which affect Scotland and also feel they should stay out of decisions that don’t affect them. In fact, they previously said they would abstain on issues that don’t involve them. If they were to show up and vote against repealing the ban they would be hammered for going back on that and for sticking their noses in to business that doesn’t concern them. (Scotland banned foxhunting before the rest of the UK and repealing this ban wouldn’t affect the ban in Scotland.)

Their opponents from all across the political spectrum have shown they are going to attack them whatever happens and I believe this is wrong. The SNP have a hard moral decision to make, whatever they do right will attack them on it, because they are trying desperately to hide the fact that Scotland voted massively in favour of an anti austerity party. They also want to keep the “Scottish wolves at the door” myth alive as it has served them well and will no doubt continue to do so.
The real problem is that I think many on the left will attack them too, because they somehow blame them for the disaster we saw on election day. It’s not the SNPs fault the tactical vote to “keep the tories out” deserted the Lib Dems after they joined said tories, it’s not the SNPs fault that Labour failed to stand strongly enough against austerity to satchel the mood of the Scottish people, and a divided left taking pot shots at each other over things like this plays right into Cameron’s hands as it causes negative press for all left parties and takes the focus away from where it should be. Which is opposing the cuts to our essential services, opposing the attack on our human rights, workers rights, civil liberties and all the rest they have planned.

Labour Leadership

So just over a week since the election defeat and we’re now firmly into the process of choosing a new Labour leader. It didn’t take the Dark Lord long to come out and have his say, claiming that the failure of the party to accept his choice last time was ultimately responsible for the defeat and that moving foward the party would need to return to the “New Labour” of he and Blair, as the lurch to the left hasn’t worked. He presented us his candidate, who promptly withdrew.

These claims have been repeated by many on the right of the faction, but I have trouble believing them. The tory press sold a “Red Ed” line and the Blairites (I’ve always wondered if the term should be Mandelsonite) backed it. However, the reality was much different. Ed Miliband was a great leader with great policies, but I feel that on many issues (imigration and austerity for example) he pandered too much to his detractors on the right.

The election results showed that the Labour vote share was up on 2010. It was up more than the Conservative vote, and in England and Wales there was a gain in seats, although not a large enough gain. Blairites and many commentators have suggested that this was due to the middle class deserting a post New Labour party, but analysis of voters suggests this to be untrue,  and that actually the working class vote was the vote that hit hardest.

In England and Wales one would assume that a lot if that we think yo the Greens and to UKIP,  the Greens stood for the left wing principles Labour were missing, and UKIP built a worrying rhetoric around their anti hero that seems to have sold well to a group who feel Labour have left them behind. North of the border we saw real dominance from the SNP,  a party running in an anti cuts, anti austerity ticket. This all suggests to me that the next leader should be opposing these ideas and there’s certainly an appetite for it amongst the new blood, as well as the old guard.

In the wake if the 2010 election defeat the Tories and the tory press sold a lie to the public. They created this myth of “Labours Recession” and the “Conservative Recovery”. The truth is that Labours spending was working. Our country was improving at a rate of knots. Those of us of a certain age will remember being schooled in portacabains, buildings built on the cheap that were falling down. I remember someone kicking a football against the wall in the biology room and the wall literally falling off. The schools built under building schools for the future are amazing facilities to learn in. NHS waiting lists were under 2 weeks, A&E waiting times were brought down, patients were able to get high quality care fast. SureStart was improving lives of millions. That’s now all gone.

The Global recession was caused by the banking crisis, which was caused by banks, as Richard Burgon said in his acceptance speech, “The clue’s in the nane.” Labour’s failure to defend their spending and to tackle these myths cost a lot of votes, and I feel going forward this needs to be addressed.

Of the candidates Yvette Cooper seems to be the one who is most likely to stand up to austerity and reconnect the party with its roots. She’s already spoken about these issues and certainly seems to hold these views. I did also like Andy Burnham’s video announcing his candidacy, stressing that his vision is a party that stands up for all. Both he and Liz Kendal impressed me when I saw them speak on the NHS during the campaign, although I worry about Kendal’s backing of private health care providers.

I think that all 5 candidates (these 3 plus Tristram Hunt and Mary Creagh) are excellent speakers, all have the charisma that the public seem to think is more important than policies and all have strong feelings for the party.

Today we are all wondering what has had to Chukka, perhaps there is a skeleton? Perhaps he really just didn’t realise the scrutiny the media would present him? Perhaps he’s cut a Blair Brown deal with Hunt? Maybe there is another, personal reason for not running, or maybe he thinks 2025 is a more likely victory year so is holding off? We may never know, but we can’t let it detract us. We need a new leader to win us the election in 2020 and to restart the good work.

I’ve heard some say “we need this person to win,’ or “winning is more important than direction.” I disagree, the party is a democratic socialist party, and must select the leader that’s right for the party and the country. Whatever happens in the end though, we must unite behind the winner and not see the back stabbing Ed Miliband faced, or that Cameron is facing from Davis now.

Should we move on?

Today I was asked: “Now the election is over, don’t you think it’s time to let politics go and move on?”

This is an idea that worries me. We live in a democracy. The country has elected a government to represent the views of the people. That doesn’t mean that we say “there you go old chap, do what you will with the place we will vote again in 2020.” Politics is an ongoing thing. We have the democratic right to lobby our mps on issues in parliament, we have the democratic right to peacefully protest and we still currently have the right of free speech (although with the snoopers charter this is looking more threatened) and I certainly intended to use those rights. There’s also far too much voter apathy, and perhaps conversations can help with that.

Elections are not just every five years, there is local elections, I’ve a feeling another referendum on electoral reform is brewing,  there is likely to be a referendum on EU membership by 2017, there is the upcoming police and crime commissioner elections. Then there’s two of the main parties running leadership elections. These are issues that can directly affect all our futures.

On top of that, I realise that in an ideal world everyone would read all the manifestos and choose the one they agree with. In practice the media whip up a storm over a few issues and a lot of people decided based on a single, or a few issues. Further still, even those people who have read the entire manifesto may have chosen the best fit to their view, but may still vehemently disagree with some of the policies in there, or policies that are not in there and come after. This is why the democratic process exists, why you have a named MP who you can write to an explain your views and urge them to express them in parliamentary debates and urge them to vote for or against certain pieces of legislature. The petition is another part of the democratic process, it shows parliament the state of public opinion and when enough signatures are gathered it puts an onus on parliament to at least commit to discussing the issue raised.

These are the democratic processes that we have to hold our government to account. Not everyone realises this, and not everyone realised they can make a difference. This is why conversation on the topics can be imperative.

So no, I don’t think it’s time to let political updates go and move on. I think it’s time to mobilise, and lobby hard, to ensure the government is working for, and accountable to, its people.

Destruction of our emergency services

You’ve all seen those adverts for our armed forces, you know the ones, they reiterate how important ALL the jobs involved can be. From the frontline all the way back to the catering and administration staff we are reminded that each and every one is important to the armed service.

So why is it that this ConDem coalition felt they could sell us lies about our emergency services? They have spouted a rhetoric that claims to have “protected frontline services”, but they have cut the support. I have a friend who works as a civilian in the West Yorkshire Police, he used to work shift patterns to allow him to take statements at times that were convenient to witnesses. He has seen a large number of his civilian colleagues made redundant and they’ve had their shiftwork removed. The reality of this is that when witnesses work 9-5 it is frontline officers who have to make the journey to collect statements etc and this is taking police away from the frontline. They’ve also had their travel expenses cut, meaning if a witness cannot come to the station it again falls to front line officers to do the task.

Cameron spoke on channel 4 in the run up to the election about how the police service had suffered budget cuts but “crime has fallen”, my contact suggests that the reality is that as officers have to do all the paperwork etc themselves a large number of minor crimes are now no longer recorded. This effects the overall crime figures and gives Cameron his misleading headline.

It’s not just the police that have been attacked, recently ITV aired a documentary about the emergency department at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, the consultant in charge spoke about his frustration at being able to spend “less than 20% of [his] time with patients”, this was due to the government cuts to the administration staff and other non-frontline services. Paramedics are being replaced with “Emergency Care Assistants” who have little more than first aid training. They are the first to arrive on the scene and their job is basically to assess whether the 999 call was warranted and if it is to call a paramedic. This means that people in dire need of emergency care are being kept waiting longer.

The last 5 years have been dire for our emergency services, on top of cuts to Police and Emergency Health we’ve seen the fire brigade attacked to such an extent that they have felt the need to strike. Let that sink in.

And this all happened under a coalition, the Lib Dems able to rein in the worst and most extreme cuts the tories hoped for. The Lib Dems no longer have that power, so the future looks very,  very bleak.