So long, Austin Mitchell, it’s been good to know you (most of the time)

by Jon Lansman

In this really quite good short film, Austin Mitchell announces he’s leaving Parliament next year (he used to work in broadcasting and it shows). He’s a very decent man who’s done some stirling work in his time, not least in defence of council housing over the years when it was simply taboo in the Labour Party, and he deserves some of the credit for raising its priority so high in the party today.

His efforts for the fisherfolk in his Great Grimsby constituency have included changing his name to Haddock. And no doubt he has done well for all who live on the Lincolnshire coast south of the Humber, that isolated red spot in a sea of blue.

For some years, he has been a member of the Campaign Group, a frequent rebel on the left of the party in many respects. He is also, to my mind, a decent and friendly fellow and no doubt has always been so. But he has not always been on the left, and on this occasion I think it worth repeating some of what I have previously written about his past.

He started out as a Gaitskellite (which is not the offence by the way) though also a committed eurosceptic throughout — which is of course entirely compatible with being a Gaitskellite. And he once wrote one of the nastiest, most bitter and sectarian books about the Labour Left that I have read.

Four Years in the Death of the Labour Party, it is a paranoid conspiracy theory about Labour between 1979 and 1983 whose inaccuracy is not helped by its colourful language. In addition to Orwell’s “every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist“, Mitchell enjoins to the conspiring dramatis personae “Marxist, Trotskyist, Buddhist, Trotskyoid and Marxoid,” Green movements and green politics.

And its leader, its “eminence, increasingly grise” is Tony Benn, a philosopher “without the stigmata of the intellectual“, guilty of multiple changes of mind, from revisionist Gaitskellite through advocate of the “PR politics of Kennedyism” and “guru of technology” to “unconsumated Marxist” and a venerator of the working-class as only the upper-classes can be.

It is an inaccurate and unilluminating rant that lasts almost 200 pages. And do not be mistaken into thinking that it is its politics which turned me off . I can recommend other histories of the period by right-wing protagonists John Golding or Diane Hayter as reasonably accurate accounts albeit from a different standpoint from my own.Even at 1p on Amazon (not that you should buy anything there), Austin’s book is not, I’m afraid, worth £2.80 p&p.

But heh, people change. We grow to see the better side. We can forgive. I no longer harbour any resentment against Austin for that book. Nor for any other of his occasional  aberrations.



The Mirror front page hit a nerve. Bring on the distraction

by Conrad Landin

BlSqhbvIUAAJJ0N.jpg-largeThe front page of yesterday’s Daily Mirror (left) made for graphic viewing. Its simple message about the injustice of Britain’s reliance on food banks – and the ease with which it could be shared on social media – made it an effective campaigning tool for “digital Bennites”. But within hours, the backlash had begun. Twitter was awash with right-wingers and plenty who should have known better expressing their own indignation. Apparently the use of a stock photo from Getty Images  – something plenty of papers use every day – is more of an outrage than the fact that one million food parcels have been handed out. Continue reading →

François Hollande moves to silence left dissenters in French Socialist Party

by Jon Lansman

hollande-et-parti-socialisteAfter their drubbing in the polls, François Hollande has acted swiftly to ensure his chosen candidate, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, was installed as party leader.  Cambadélis’s task is to ensure that any opposition to the party’s rightwards shift is silenced, notably that of the Socialist Party (PS) left faction, Maintenant la gauche, which opposes deficit reduction, and argues for the replacement the EU ‘Merkozy’ treaty with an EU programme of growth and re-industrialisation, an EU minimum wage and fiscal harmonisation, wealth redistribution and the elimination of tax evasion. Who better to smash the left than a former Troskyist and 1968 student activist like Jean-Christophe Cambadélis. Continue reading →

Hungry Britain or benefit scroungers – your tabloid choice

by Newsdesk

TabloidsThe Mirror and the Express this morning illustrate the shameful divide in media attitudes to inequality in Britain. The Mirror asks why the sixth richest country in the world with more millionaires than ever has handed out a million food parcels this year.

Widespread hunger is not news for the Express. It expresses its outrage over the latest “get pregnant for benefits” allegation.

It’s going to be a very nasty year running up to the general election!

NHS Wales – a Cameron apology is called for

by Tony Beddow

nhs walesThe Welsh NHS has for weeks been attacked in the Commons by Cameron and Hunt being described as failing and a shambles. Now, on a weekend when the independent Nuffield Trust reported that NHS Wales compares well with the other UK health systems, Cameron compounded the crime by telling the Tory Conference that the Welsh border separated life and death. Both should apologise to the House for misleading it and correct the record. Cameron should apologise to Wales for the “line of death” slur. Continue reading →

Sexism in the UK

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

mkhoqt (2)There are a few of quick notes about the UN’s Rashida Manjoo’s claim that the UK is endemically sexist and that is is worse here than “other places”.

Firstly, it’s a bit of a shock, if I’m honest. I’ve written a fair few things about gender and sexism, and of course I’m aware of and appreciate the work feminist comrades have done tackling ‘everyday’ sexism. That said, while much still needs to be done I didn’t for one moment think that the UK’s sexism problem was worse than other developed nations. Okay, leaving out Nordic countries, is the UK worse than Italy, France, and the USA? If it is then things are grimmer than I thought. Continue reading →

What lies behind Blairite calls for “an avowedly pro-business agenda”?

by Jon Lansman

MilburnAlan Milburn was once a Trotskyist, who co-ran a small left-wing bookshop in Newcastle, Days of Hope (aka Haze of Dope). Now he is better known as the New Labour politician and former Secretary of State for Health whom David Cameron appointed as his “social mobility Tsar”. He is also one of those Blairite  heavyweights who are occasionally wheeled out to deliver the line that those Blairites left within the shadow cabinet feel unable to deliver. Yesterday in the Financial Times, he called on Labour “to embrace an avowedly pro-business agenda and match it with a more overtly pro-business tone”. Continue reading →

Royal Mail fire sale costs taxpayer £1.4 billion

by Grahame Morris CC BY 2.0 by deargdoom57The Royal Mail served the nation for over 500 years; however a Government fire sale not only privatised this prize asset but also short changed the public. Last week, the National Audit Office (NAO) delivered a damning report showing that the Government’s rush to privatise the Royal Mail cost the taxpayer £1.4 billion. Continue reading →

The view from inside the head of Vladimir Putin

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

Putin mirrorYou run an authoritarian regime in a vast country beset with economic problems, corruption, and ethnically-based insurgencies.

The nation on your doorstep – which formerly used to be an integral part of the multinational state ran from your capital for 70 years – has been intriguing with your long-term opponents in the international arena. Former client states and allies are now under the umbrella of their transnational military alliance and supra-national political project. There is ample evidence they were materially supporting opposition social movements in said neighbouring state. Continue reading →

Trade unions fear for the future of the Co-op

by Jon Lansman

coopLord Myners impassioned defence of his review of the Co-operative Group in the Observer following his resignation from its board last week will have found favour with many Co-operators. Today, a trade union representing Co-op employees have today leapt into the debate in defence of their members interests, and in support of Myners.

Adrian Jones, a Unite national officer representing 1200 Unite members in a letter to Co-op board members, expressed the fear that “the board level power struggle is putting their livelihoods at risk“. He went on to back Lord Myners call for a comprehensive review of governance in the group. Continue reading →

© 2014 Left Futures | Powered by WordPress | theme originated from PrimePress by Ravi Varma