Socialism not nationalism is what should govern the life of Scotland, says Gordon

by Jon Lansman

From each according to his ability to contribute; to each according to his needs. That is the best principle that can govern the life of our country today.”

Thus Gordon Brown, at last and at his best, put socialism firmly at the heart of the reason to vote No in the Scottish referendum. It should have happened sooner. There never should have been a Better Together campaign. Labour and the Tories are better apart. Labour is (or should be) a socialist, internationalist party committed to democracy and solidarity not “unionism”.

We hope it’s not too late to persuade sufficient Scottish voters to vote for a socialist Britain rather than the risk of separation. If they do, Gordon deserves more credit than anyone else.

Cancelling Labour’s conference if Scotland votes Yes would insult party & voters alike

by Jon Lansman

Labour Conference 2013Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the Huffington Post, last night reported that Labour’s conference could be severely curtailed in the event of a Yes vote in Scotland and the recall of parliament on Monday which seems likely. Although this report is unconfirmed, Mehdi is widely respected and I am not inclined to ignore his report. It would not, after all, be the first time that important decisions about party matters were taken in the Leader’s office without consultation with Labour’s executive (whose meeting in Glasgow on Tuesday was cancelled). Mehdi reported as follows:

Speaking on condition of anonymity, senior Labour sources confirmed that the party high command would cancel all speeches and fringe events, with the exception of the keynote address from Labour leader Ed Miliband next Tuesday, if the Scots vote for independence this coming Thursday.

Continue reading →

Politics and Independence: How Do You Feel?

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

fyk8p1Better Together has been short on emotion, and all of a sudden it’s there’s shouting and bawling all over the place. Almost. The Prime Minister has ventured north from Westminster twice to make heartfelt pleas to Scottish voters. And Gordon Brown (Gordon Brown!) has been stomping around making the passionate case for the union. Too little too late when compared with the apparent enthusiasm of the Yes campaign? We’ll only know for sure come Thursday.

But I want to be indulgent for a moment. I want to pause, and reflect. Way, way back in October 2008, as ears were ringing to the cacophony of crashing stock markets and all those ten-a-penny Trotskyist forecasts of economic crisis came to fruition, I took a brief break from thinking and blogging about those events to talk about how I  felt. After all, the received political and economic wisdom was vaporising faster than sub prime mortgage trades. Having one’s coordinates suddenly shift was disconcerting and exhilarating, and while you could see the attacks to be unleashed on working people to pay for this crisis coming a mile off, for a brief moment it felt there was everything to play for. Continue reading →

Austerity is on course to be a lot worse

by Michael Burke

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has produced its latest assessment of the economic crisis and its impact on government finances (pdf here). In common with the UK Treasury the OBR tends to underestimate the impact of austerity policies and consequently has a persistently over-optimistic outlook for the British economy. This is no surprise as the OBR uses the Treasury economic model.
Even so the detailed analysis by the OBR is very valuable as it reflects official thinking on the economy and on economic policy. This view will continue to be shared by the OBR and Treasury beyond the next election.

A key conclusion of the latest report is the assessment that austerity policies are set to continue for some time to come. The chart below shows the OBR’s assessment of the austerity policies and their composition from 2008/09 with projections until 2018/19. The policy measures of government spending cuts and tax change changes are expressed as a percentage of GDP.  Continue reading →

Almost total tack of accountability of private hospitals is a glaring scandal

by Michael Meacher

13747637_sLast month’s report by the Centre for Health and the Public Interest on patient safety risks in private hospitals is a real eye-opener. Apparently more than 800 people have died ‘unexpectedly’ in private hospitals in the last 4 years, and a total of 921 serious injuries were recorded. Even this may be a significant under-estimation since private hospitals are still not required to make data on hospital deaths and safety incidents publicly available. The majority of private hospitals have no intensive care beds. Some have no dedicated resuscitation teams, and surgeons and anaesthetists usually work in isolation. There is often very little experienced cover at night, and typically there is one very junior doctor covering an entire hospital. There are also gaps in after-care if things go wrong.

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Democratic changes up for decision at Labour’s conference next week

by Peter Willsman

Conference PreviewAt Labour’s conference in Manchester next week, delegates will be debating and voting on a number of key changes to the party’s rule book, tabled both by the national executive and by constituency parties. Grassroots proposals, under an obscure convention (known as the ‘1968 Ruling’) have been delayed for a year but the executive can agree rule changes one week and have them voted on by conference the following week!

It is vital that delegates ensure that constituency party proposals are given a fair hearing not brushed aside. Last year, in addition to the rule changes from that have been accepted by the conference arrangements committee for debate this year, there were no fewer than eight further rule changes proposed by  14 constituencies (Bermondsey & Old Southwark; West Ham; Bolsover; Runnymede & Weybridge; Maidstone & The Weald; Bridgend; Great Grimsby; Meriden; Newport West; Saffron Walden; Wirral West; Bracknell; Epsom & Ewell and Redcar) ruled out of order. Continue reading →

Near-universal call for industrial recovery blocked by 3 party austerity obsession

by Michael Meacher

Green IndustryA YouGov poll this week says 85% want the next government to promote a stronger UK manufacturing base, with 62% believing it will give the country more economic security. They’re absolutely right of course, and that is the centrepiece of my book The State We Need: Keys to the Renaissance of Britain. But it isn’t going to happen unless there is a profound sea-change in the conventional wisdom of the 3 main political parties.

As long as economic policy is driven by austerity-first, there will almost certainly continue to be desperately low levels of investment, little or no growth or rise in output per head, no increase in living standards, all accompanies by rising national and government debt, increasing unemployment and relentless relative if not actually absolute decline. Continue reading →

Fear is changing sides in Spain

by Mike Phipps

Ken Loach and Owen Jones at Podemos rallyHundreds attended a meeting packed to overflowing – mainly young people, many Spanish – in London this weekend to hear a three-way debate between Owen Jones, Ken Loach and leaders of the new Spanish organisation Podemos, which took five seats in the European Parliament in May just three months after being formed. One of the new MEPs, Tania González Peñas, spoke from the platform.

Podemos (“We can!”) was inspired by the radical left force in Greece, Syriza. It grew out of the mass protests in Spain of the last three years, the Indignados movement. It fought the European election campaign on a tiny budget, much of it funded by small online donations. To universal surprise, it polled 1.2 million votes, drawing considerable support from younger voters, running on an anti-austerity programme that was produced in a way very different to the opaque processes used by the traditional party elites. Continue reading →

Is the future “local”? The case of education

by David Pavett

The casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that Labour in 2014 has been entirely won over to the cause of the devolution of power. “Top-down” control is decried in favour of “bottom up” approaches, the regions/nations of the UK are to have much more control of their own affairs (the a panic quality of this regarding Scotland is all too evident), “local control” is extolled in every direction from regional banking, business strategy to schools.

But what does “local” actually mean?

The emptiness of much of the rhetoric should ring alarm bells. The abstract contrast of top-down (bad) with bottom-up (good) is nonsense. Any complex system needs both. If there is no need for top-down one is not dealing with a system. On the other hand a system which runs without lower level feedback will be unresponsive and problematic. A little thought soon shows that a national system requires both top-down steering and bottom-up implementation. The top-down versus bottom-up rhetoric is used by politicians who don’t believe that ordinary people are capable of understanding the issues or, more likely, don’t care to say what they really mean. Continue reading →

A new constitutional settlement for England

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

8vs0fqWe could well be days away from ending the 307 year old union between Scotland, and England and Wales. This penny has finally dropped with establishment politics. They have looked into the abyss and are terrified that irrelevance could be staring right back at them. Characteristically, their attempt to ward of the spectre has been threat and promise. The former has been the gift of Scottish financial institutions this week, pledging to move headquarters down to London in the event of a Yes vote. Particularly amusing was Deutsche Bank’s David Folkert-Landau warning that Scottish independence would be a decision right up there with those that triggered the Depression. No need to pull your punches, David! On promises we’ve had the peculiar resurrection of Gordon Brown. Our political Lazarus dusted off the backbench cobwebs by manfully seizing Better Together by the throat. He threw down proposals for new Scottish powers that were eagerly seized upon by the Westminster parties, even though all three are signed up to further devolution (not that you’d know it thanks to BT’s negativist campaign). Now is not the time for a novice indeed. Continue reading →

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