With friends like these….

This post was originally posted here on Labour Teachers on 23rd October 2015.

I’ve just read this post from @teach_well on Labour Teachers. It’s a terrifying hatchett job which suggests the new Labour leader is similar to the infamous leader of the British union of fascists.

With an almost worryingly bizarre irony the post suggests that Mr Corbyn is working against democracy. Corbyn has been elected by a massive majority of party members. And membership has swelled even further since his election. This shows that he has a massive democratic mandate to create policy. The others in the parliamentary party backed their own horses and found them, and their policy ideas,  rejected by the party as a whole. It seems to me that it’s actually the PLP that are working against democracy by blocking the policies that the party as a whole selected democratically over the summer when it elected Corbyn.

These personal attacks on Corbyn and his followers are all too prevalent in the media and in social media. Coming often from purported supporters and members of the party. But bizarrely we also hear of Corbyn supporters attacking the non “Corbynistas” as tories. I’ve not seen any of these attacks, but masses of attacks the other way.

The post attacks Corbyn for answering a question about policy disagreement with the phrases “I would try to change their minds”, suggesting this is undemocratic. But actually this is the very crux of democracy. The whole point of the parliamentary system is to engage in debate and try to persuade others to come around to your way of thinking. That’s why we have commons debates, Lords debates etc etc. So to suggest that a debate is undemocratic is an absolute nonsense.

The post also attacks the right to peaceful protest. A democratic right that we have in this country. The author seems to think that party conferences should be exempt from this, and that by exercising a democratic right to protest those involved are campaigning for a dictatorship, which is ridiculous inference. By protesting and lobbying the general populous can show the political classes their views, and potentially affect policy decisions.

It’s bizarre that so many members of the Labour party, a democratic socialist party, are so vocal in their opposition to Corbyn, a socialist who was democratically elected leader. The party is a broad church, often referred to as “the coalition on the left”, Corbyn has embraced that and wants involvement from all areas of the party in policy making. Yet those who didn’t want him don’t seem willing to engage, the knives are out and they’re being sharpened. With friends like these….

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Kill the house of Lords?

I’ve just read this article in the Huffington post suggesting the tory government is going to kill of the house of Lords in retaliation if they block the tax credit cuts.

This seems to me to be qn affront to our entire democracy. I am against the idea of an unelected second house, but I’m totally on board with the need for an second house in order to protect the electorate against the government becoming a dictatorship. Dictators work by eliminating any other power holders who can block their plans and assuming all roles.

The Lord’s have been the voice of reason many times already since Cameron first became prime minister, and look likely to be that again over this set of cuts which will destroy families. The fact that the government is issuing these threats is genuinely scary. What do you think?

Credible Opposition

Apparently the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron believes his party is now the only “credible opposition” to the Tory government. This seems strange given that there are two parties with considerably more MPs. Clearly the labour party, now home to more members than all the other parties combined, is still a credible opposition, but I want to.look at the Lib Dems themselves, are they credible?

They suffered hidious losses in the last election and now their entire parliamentary party could fit inside a Toyota previa. This hardly seems like a party ready to overthrow the government, but I guess if they stick together and stick to their position they could cause some impact.

But they are not even doing that.

The official Liberal Democrat policy on the recent trade union bill is to oppose ot, so how did the whip get on when it came to last week’s vote? Well the leader, Farron himself, his leadership campaign manager Greg Mulholland and their former leader Nick Clegg all declined to vote. If the leader, his top leuitenant and the former leader can’t even get themselves to a vote on something they strongly oppose as a party how on earth can they consider themselves a credible opposition?

Assisted Dying

I’m writing to you as your constituent to ask you to support the Assisted Dying Bill when it is debated on Friday 11 September. I believe the recent case of Bob Cole, as covered in a plethora of media outlets, shows that the current law is broken.

Dying people like Bob are forced to make incredibly difficult and unnecessary choices at present simply to have control over their own inevitable deaths. One Britain travels to Dignitas for assistance to die every two weeks. For every person who travels to Dignitas, 10 more dying people take their own lives here at home. This situation cannot be ignored.

It is my sincere belief that humans should be given the right to choose how they want to end their life. It is an issue I have felt strongly about for a number of years. The case of Tony Nicklinson,  a man who suffered from locked in syndrome and could only move his eyes, was one that affected me deeply. To see this man try, and fail, on numerous occasions to be allowed to die on his own terms was heartbreaking and I found the news that rather than be allowed a dignified death he had to resort to starving himself to death in order to end his pain and suffering.

A couple of years ago my best friend on the world took his own life. He has been battling with bi-polar disorder, addiction, and a number of other issues for a long time and he had had enough. He got night terror,  where he awoke screaming and was on edge the whole time. He said to me a number of times that he didn’t understand why we treat our animals much better than humans, and that he knew if a dog suffered the level of pain and suffering he did it would have ben put out of its misery a long time ago. In the end he hanged himself, a horrible painful end that could have been avoided if we had a much better law.

A new law with upfront safeguards, limited to terminally ill, mentally competent adults, would both protect vulnerable people and give dying people choice and control over their death here, not abroad. As my elected representative, I urge you to support this change, a change supported by an overwhelming majority of the public – 82% of Britons support this Bill.

A surge to the left?

The campaigns ahead of the labour leadership elections have been extremely interesting to watch. Liz Kendal must have thought she was in with a good chance when she was backed by progress, but her tory – lite policies have done little to win over votes within the party and she is miles behind the others in terms of CLP nominations.

Jeremy Corbyn probably set out to ensure the left of the party had a voice in the election,  and I would imagine that to start with he didn’t think he had much of a chance. He has, however, captured the imagination of the party and the nation. Way out in the lead in terms of CLP votes and inspiring masses of long term labour voters, supporters and former members to join, or rejoin, the party they feel has been taken away from their position and too far to the right. The press have been on an all out attack, labelling him hard left, comparing him to Michael Foot, when actually he is just the voice of true Labour. Someone who believes there is another way to austerity.

He has certainly had an impact on the debate,  and I can’t help wonder if Andy Burnham’s pledge to renationalise the railways and re-regulate the buses has come in response to the clear left wing feeling the nation is holding. Perhaps Burnham feels he needs to move to the left to be in with a chance, or perhaps the mood of the nation has allowed him to reveal policies he has wanted to hold for a while but has been worried the nation would not want them.

As he moves to the left Yvette Cooper seems to be staying in that centre ground, and seems to be after Liz Kendal’s supporters second preferences. By ruling out working with Corbyn if either of them win she has certainly not done much for party unity.

The debate goes on, and we are finding out more about each potential leaders policies by the day, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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.

“Liberal” Leader?

This week the Liberal Democrats have elected Tim Farron as leader of their party. I wrote before that if they were to be successful in rebuilding they needed to distance themselves from the coalition and given Farron’s opposition to it and rebellious voting record he would probably be the man for the Job,  I still believe this and the rebuilding must begin.

The press,  however, have picked up something else from his voting record. He has failed to support certain equality issues and has deep rooted “Christian” values that apparently see homosexuals as sinners. These values seem at odds with the ideology of his party, the only party with the word “Liberal” in its name. Farron must do some soul searching. There are many LGBT activists within the party and if he allows his religion to hold sway over him in this he may lose their support.

When questioned by channel 4 on the topic he went into full politician “avoiding the answer” mode, talking of how he believes we are all sinners, but this still annoyed many of us who believe that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. I’ve long thought that as the religions claim to be based on love, )forgiveness and accepting others they need to move passed their outdated views on homosexuals and into the modern world, can Farron do this?  or can will he plunge the Liberal Democrats back into a world of bigotry that they have led the way in moving out of?

I  hope it is his Liberal values that win the internal conflict, but we will have to wait and see.