The bogus Bevanism of Owen Smith

by David Osland

OwenSmithMP-2How deep the irony that invocation of Aneurin Bevan is all too often little more than a gesture of contentless radicalism, much in the manner of a faded Che Guevara poster ironically adorning the walls of an undergraduate hipster’s bedsit.

To this day, Neil Kinnock’s curious penchant for upholding a one-time militant miners’ strike leader as a primary inspiration, even while actively seeking to weaken Scargill in 1984-85, readily springs to mind.

The tradition continued when Gordon Brown happily provided the foreword for the 60th anniversary reprint of Bevan’s 1952 book In Place of Fear. Given the volume’s overt demands for widespread social ownership, the temptation is to conclude that the arch exponent of PFI could not have read it too attentively beforehand. Continue reading →

‘You can’t pass motions; that’s political’ – A Report for Labour Students National Committee meeting, 19/07/16

by Michael Muir

Inside Labour CorbynAt this year’s Labour Students National Conference in Scarborough, delegates were promised, to quote from the manifesto of our new Chair, ‘a radical change’. Indeed-and much needed it was. Poor organisation made for a chaotic conference, whilst, time and again, BAME members of our organisation told of how they felt ignored and marginalised to the point of invisibility. In the words of the BAME Officer, Huda Elmi, ‘it is like we do not exist to you’. There seemed to be a consensus that, in its current form, Labour’s student affiliate was unsustainable. Continue reading →

#SaveLabour – Vote Jeremy

by Guest

A beautiful short film made by activists and filmmakers in Liverpool, featuring a wide range of local Labour members explaining why they support ‪#‎JeremyForLabour‬. Thank you Phil Maxwell, Hazuan Hashim and Lola Perrin!

If you would like to volunteer your talents for Jeremy’s campaign, let him know through his campaign website.

Peter Willsman reports from Labour’s July executives

by Peter Willsman

Willsman1National Executive Committee 19 July 2016

This was the scheduled NEC meeting for July (below I cover the Emergency NEC meeting of 12 July). The atmosphere at this meeting was much better than at last week’s Emergency NEC meeting. In part this was due to the fact that Jeremy was present for the whole NEC and contributed throughout the meeting. This, of course, was the practice of all leaders until the advent of New Labour. Not only did Tony Blair downgrade the role of the NEC but also he was never prepared to spend more than an hour at our meetings. Jeremy is restoring the custom that served the Party well for over ninety years. Jeremy clearly appreciates the major and governing role of the NEC. One very notable feature of this NEC meeting was that, as has been the case in the past, some NEC members participated in the NEC via phone (in one case from Brittany), but on this occasion the Chair allowed voting by phone. To my mind this is a helpful development because sometimes NEC members are unavoidably absent. Continue reading →

Over 180,000 sign up as registered supporters in Labour leadership election

by Newsdesk

CorbynComforting news for Corbyn supporters as 183,541 people paid £25 to become registered supporters in the Labour leadership election in just 48 hours. The stitch-up of the right on the NEC had prevented around 200,000 party members from being able to cast a vote, forcing many who had joined the party since January 12th to sign up as registered supporters, at a huge cost of £25.

The change in procedures was condemned by many at the time, and it was particularly noted that young people, with less money, would be more affected by the price hike. The change from £3 to £25 is likely to affect the composition of the selectorate somewhat, and while those joining will possibly be a more middle-class group, Corbyn last summer won over 88,0000 of the 105,000 votes in the registered supporters section. This time, however, both Progress and “Saving Labour” have been signing up ‘moderates’, but how many moderates there out outside of the Labour Party who are willing to pay £25 to vote for Owen Smith, remains to be seen. Continue reading →

The Labour Party kills satire

by Andy Newman

Kevin Higgins photoJohnny Cash famously spent a night in jail in Starkville Mississippi for picking flowers. The Labour Party has recently achieved a similar level of ludicrous overreaction by suspending the award winning Irish poet, Kevin Higgins, for writing a satirical poem.

Kevin is a renowned artist, whose work is discussed in Justin Quinn’s Cambridge Introduction to Modern Irish Poetry. He is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events in Galway, Ireland. He has published five collections of poems: The Boy With No Face (2005), Time Gentlemen, Please (2008), Frightening New Furniture(2010), The Ghost In The Lobby (2014), & 2016 – The Selected Satires of Kevin Higgins.

His poems feature in Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010) and in The Hundred Years’ War: modern war poems (Bloodaxe, 2014).  He has regularly contributed poems on topical issues to publications such as The Morning Star, Socialist Unity and Harry’s Place. Kevin is satirist-in-residence with the alternative literature website The Bogman’s Cannon. The Stinging Fly magazine recently described Kevin as “likely the most widely read living poet in Ireland”. Continue reading →

Corbyn ahead in leadership poll as Eagle drops out of race

by Newsdesk

AngelaEagle1Jeremy Corbyn is set to win the Labour leadership election for the second time in twelve months, according to the latest polling from YouGov, for The Times. The percentage of people who think Corbyn is doing well now stands at 55%, up four points, while 41% think he is doing poorly. Corbyn, according to the YouGov poll, would win 54% of the votes while Angela Eagle would secure 21% and Smith will be last with 15%.

Since the poll was conducted however, Angela Eagle has ducked out of the race, giving Owen Smith a clear run. While he was thought by many to have been the preferred candidate of the right to beat Corbyn, due to his ‘soft left’ credentials, the poll clearly indicates many members would have preferred Eagle to Smith.

Yet Eagle has now dropped out of the race, after more MPs came out in favour of Smith. Corbyn now faces a single challenger which may make things more difficult – though he is still expected to win, as every major bookmaker has him as the odds-on favourite today.

There have also been further murmurs from MPs and Labour members on the right that they are unhappy that Smith was chosen ahead of Eagle, believing that after the Conservatives adopted their second woman leader and prime minister, Labour should be getting round to its first. This adds to concerns around the image that Smith is peddling with members, of being ‘normal’, by appearing to contrast his marriage and children to Angela Eagle’s private life.

In the poll of 1,019 Labour members surveyed between Friday 15 July and Monday 18 July, 44% said they would definitely vote for Corbyn, while a further 13% said they would probably vote for him. While polling in leadership elections is far from an exact science, YouGov’s track record is strong. Last summer they had Corbyn winning in every poll from the start.

“I’m Normal”: Class, Culture and Representation in Post-Brexit Labour

by Ewan Gibbs

OwenSmithMP-2Owen Smith provoked a string of criticisms for his assertion of “I’m normal”, largely due to it resting on his later assertion of “I’ve got a wife and three children.” This has been viewed as an implicitly homophobic criticism of Angela Eagle’s candidacy, and compared to Andrea Leadsom’s gaffe about Theresa May not being a mother. But the comments revealed a lot more about Smith’s campaign and the cultural identity crisis within British social democracy. For Smith, his standing as a family man was about community rootedness, and, in line with his labour market experience outside politics, meant “I can bring that normality, that sense of what our communities want” to the Labour leadership. This barrier drawing extends beyond sexual preference. It is part of a wider discussion about who can and can’t represent Labour: who is culturally “normal” and who isn’t. This has important ramifications of the fissures engulfing social democracy in the post-Brexit climate. Continue reading →

What does Owen Smith believe?

by James Elliott

OwenSmithMP-2The right of the PLP are faced with an impossible conundrum. On the one hand, many of them believe that only through being tougher than the Tories on welfare, or being seen to want to drastically reduce immigration, can they ‘reconnect’ with the voters they lost from 2001 onwards. Yet on the other hand, they must persuade an increasingly leftwing and discontented party membership that they will not repeat the mistakes of either Blair’s government, or Miliband’s capitulation to Tory spending plans. Forced into this double-bind, both Angela Eagle and now Owen Smith have sought to win the leadership election by persuading the membership, against all evidence, that deep down they have always been against austerity, and they just want to see Labour in power so that they can put Corbyn’s policies into practice.

As I wrote last week, this would be the essence of Angela Eagle’s campaign. She or Smith can win if they persuade enough party members who see themselves as on the left but sympathise with the right’s narratives of Corbyn’s supposed ineffectiveness in the referendum, or in the media, or simply fear the party will split. In order to secure those votes, they themselves must wear the clothes of the left.  Continue reading →

The banana republic mentality of the Labour NEC

by David Osland

The NECWhen was the last time a mass social democratic party anywhere in the world was formally forbidden to meet? The best answer I can come up with is 1973, in the wake of the military takeover in Chile.

Yet such is the surreal situation in which the Labour Party now finds itself. This, not as a result of some draconian decision of the British state, but by unilateral decree by its own National Executive Committee.

Some 130,000 dues paying members have been disenfranchised via retrospective change to the rulebook. If there is any precedent for this step from any major institution in civil society, I am completely unaware of it. Continue reading →

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