Labour must show its compassion in this refugee crisis

by Claude Moraes

Calais refugee https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Calais_refugee_camp_4.JPGWhen the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn visited the Calais and Grande-Synthe camps on the 23 January it was his first official trip abroad as Leader of the Opposition. That someone who I personally know to have been committed to the refugee and immigration issue all of his political life this should have been a source of pride for Labour and a signal that he was willing to take on one of the toughest and most persistent humanitarian and immigration issues of recent years on the UKs doorstep.

The most shocking thing about Calais – and there are many things that shock – is that it is an issue that is very solvable with the collective response of two of the world’s biggest economies within an EU which should be cooperating on these issues. At the UAF conference on Saturday 6 February, I will be saying very clearly that only one of the UK’s political leaders has had the courage to visit both camps, speak to the refugees and NGOs face-to-face then say clearly to the media that the humanitarian and refugee issue in Calais can and must be solved. Some of the refugees who approached Jeremy Corbyn to plead for his intervention were Kurdish. Jeremy has been a strong supporter of the Kurdish struggle for human rights and self-determination for many years. So it was clear that he understood both the origins and plight of the people he was speaking to in the camp. Continue reading →

Terry Wogan and the celebrity system

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

ehdv7a“We’ll never see their like again” is a refrain common to the passing of major league celebrities. With David Bowie this was because of his profound influence on pop music and performance, an impact that is probably impossible for anyone to repeat ever. And then there is Terry Wogan who, I would suggest, is of a similar type of celebrity.

What? As beloved Terry Wogan is, how can he as a Radio 2 presenter, former talk show host, and longtime commentator on Europe’s silly song contest be considered to have much in common with our culture-defining legend? Yes, and it comes down to the political economy of celebrity. Continue reading →

What will the local elections mean for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn?

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

Corbyn on redIs it too early to write about this? Seeing as everyone is talking about how this year’s contest is a test for Jeremy, I’d like to briefly visit three push-me-pull-you factors that could have an impact.

Local elections, local politics
In the equivalent elections in 2012, we were just coming off the back of Osborne’s celebrated omnishambles budget. Try as the Tories might, even they couldn’t talk down the huge gains Labour made that year. However, that was something of an abnormality. Local council contests usually turn out the hardest of hardcore voters, and in the main they vote on the basis of local issues. The other parties will try their damnedest to make this set of elections a referendum on Jeremy Corbyn, but it’s quite possible the Oldham effect could kick in. Voters zoned out the anti-Jeremy bile and gave Labour a thumping result. The lesson drawn by many a Local Campaign Forum might be, with Corbers plumbing the polls, that hiding him under a bushel and going all out on pot holes and unfair council cuts might capture a higher than projected vote share. It could work. Continue reading →

No hiding place for Osborne

by Matt Willgress

Osborne digging a hole, based on original by by coljay72As George Osborne gets his excuses in early for the troubles to come, now is the time to expose the failures of ideologically driven austerity, writes Matt Willgress of the Labour Assembly Against Austerity

The British mainstream media is now so clearly biased in favour of the ruling party it can sometimes seem as if politics is entirely divorced from reality. But reality has a habit of intruding on make-believe. This is the position George Osborne now finds himself in.

In the Autumn Statement, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) ‘awarded’ Osborne £27 billion in lower Budget deficits because of projected stronger growth. The March 2016 Budget is likely to tell a very different story, with growth forecasts slashed. Osborne is likely to admit that the Tory Government will again miss its deficit for the current Financial Year and has, in the words of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP, “been getting his excuses in early.” Continue reading →

Corbyn and the Israel/Islam/Putin/Trident critique

by David Osland

Hammer Corbyn1An entire journalistic cottage industry now exists (such as here and here and here and here) devoted to making the claim that Jeremy Corbyn is an overgrown adolescent CNDer harbouring a lingering atavistic attachment to Russian nationalism, with participants frequently coming as close as libel laws permit to averring outright anti-semitism on the Labour leader’s part.

It’s not that Jezza is actually a goose-stepping proto-pogromist himself, the story goes. And probably he wouldn’t have given Litvinenko that polonium-210 laced cuppa with his own fair hand. But that’s only because he normally gets Seumas Milne to run FSB errand boy duties for him. Continue reading →

Rahman wins right for judicial review on “undue spiritual influence”

by Andy Newman

lutfur-rahmanBack in August 2014, the Times ran a screaming headline saying Muslims told to ‘vote for mayor or be damned’. The quote marks in the headline might have led a reader to assume that the Times were referring to someone who had actually said this, but sadly journalistic standards at the Thunderer are not what they were.

Earlier this week, Lutfur Rahman, the former mayor of Tower Hamlets twice elected by the voters, but judicially removed last year, failed on appeal to get his exclusion from public office overturned. But significantly, Rahman did gain permission for a judicial review of the ruling that there had been undue “spiritual influence” due to a recommendation by a number of Muslim clerics to vote for him. Regretably, this update to the story did not make it into the Times. Continue reading →

Pete Willsman’s Report for Labour’s January Executive

by Peter Willsman

Inside Labour Willsman from NEC

National Executive Committee 26 January 2016

The executive was faced with a very heavy agenda for the meeting because not only was there the much-heralded arrival of Margaret Beckett’s Learning the Lessons taskforce report, but we were to hear from Alan Johnson who is masterminding our Labour In For Britain referendum campaign, and Kezia Dugdale, the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, and her team.

Other major items on the agenda were a detailed document setting out proposed changes following the NEC Governance and Committee Structures Review. Several members of the NEC (including myself) had contributed to the review. In my submission I have proposed that there should be the following new committees: a staffing committee, a policy committee, and a youth committee. I also proposed that the annual women’s conference should have a delegate structure and policy-making powers which feeds into annual conference. Similarly I proposed that the party fully empower all our BAME party members in a fully-functioning BAME section of the party, also with an annual conference with a delegate structure and policy-making powers, which feeds into annual conference. Continue reading →

Is Labour a campaigning party, or one that follows public opinion?

by Bryan Gould

Vote key on keyboard pollingI had the pleasure of working with Deborah Mattinson during the 1987 and 1992 election campaigns when she undertook qualitative polling for the Labour Party. She was expert in interpreting what could be gleaned from focus groups, and those running the campaign, myself included, always listened attentively to what she had to say.

Politicians always listen carefully to what the pollsters tell them; indeed, it could argued that they are inclined to pay too much attention to poll findings, particularly in the middle of election campaigns when the apparent precision of the figures (if not of the facts behind them) can seem to be the only certain element in an uncertain world. Continue reading →

Centralisation versus democracy: Labour’s national executive makes its choice

by Jon Lansman

The NECThis afternoon, Labour’s national executive (NEC) will discuss under the rather dull heading “NEC Terms of Reference and Committees” an important matter: how much power should lie with its grassroots members. Most NEC members understand that what the rulebook says about the primary purpose of the NEC being to “provide a strategic direction for the party” has been nothing but fiction for the last two decades. Most of them are elected by the party’s membership or affiliates, and they want to play the role to which they were elected.

To understand how the balance of power has changed over time we need to look at the development of a federal party, in which power was distributed amongst its various components – the executive, the trade unions, the leader and the parliamentary party – into the centralised party it became under Blair and Brown. Ironically, the process of concentrating power in the leader started as an unforeseen consequence of electing the leader by a wider franchise, a democractic reform I and many others sought in the late 1970s. It has had the same effect in other parties. Continue reading →

The UK “recovery” cannot be sustained. Osborne has failed to rebalance the economy and boost productivity

by Grahame Morris

Productivity - multitasking workerAn Opposition Debate on Trade, Exports, Innovation and Productivity highlighted the fragile nature of our economic recovery. The fundamentals for a strong economy have been overlooked by a Government more interested in short term headlines than our long term economic interests.

The Government’s promise to “rebalance” the economy has not materialised with the UK now having record high trade deficits for 2014 and 2013. Our balance of payments, the amount we import compared to the amount we export, show a trade deficit of £34 billion. However, this figure is mis-leading and masks our trade deficit in goods, which stands at £123.1 billion. Continue reading →

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