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.

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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.

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.

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.