Labour’s election broadcast – countering the claim that politicians are all the same

by Jon Lansman

If you weren’t one of well over a million people who have watched Labour’s election broadcast featuring actor Martin Freeman explaining why he is choosing Labour, now is your chance. The thrust of the  broadcast, is to present the choice at this election as “a choice between two completely different sets of values, a choice about what kind of country we want to live in“. In passing, it covers important policies and it does, in my view, do a good job of differentiation. Pretty good use of the time available.

The transforming power of music education

by David Pavett

Geordie symphony school orchestraAnyone with doubts about the transformative power of music could not have have come across the work of the Venezuelan Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra or the work done with music education in Soweto, South Africa. It is enough to listen and watch a little of the music made by children, many of whom come from deprived backgrounds to see that this could not happen without serious personal engagement on the part of the young musicians.

Music is a part of virtually everyone’s life and often a major part. It is ubiquitous. Any given individual may spend days without reading a book, looking at a painting or listening to poetry. But music, well that would be hard to exclude. The ubiquity of music has its downside. Often it is used and even created for purely commercial reasons. Powerful commercial interests in the music business, advertising and venues regulate a great deal of the music that is made, although fortunately their tentacles do not reach every form of expression – I can enjoy some pretty good music-making in my local pub along with others keen to give their attention to what the musicians have to offer. Continue reading →

Cameron gets rattled: where’s the leadership quality he like to boast of?

by Michael Meacher

Cameron RattledCameron is alarmingly showing increasing signs of losing his cool. He does so quite regularly at PMQs when he gets caught out and his face blushes puce. He did so again under fire from Paxman in the recent TV contest between him and Miliband when, unlike at PMQs, he didn’t have the privilege of the last word and had to face repeated questions drilling down on controversial issues. And now, after a poor start to the Tory election campaign, he’s at it again, tossing out wild rhetoric unjustified by any evidence. He accused Labour of “over £3,000 in higher taxes for every working family to pay for more welfare and out of control spending; debt will rise and jobs will be lost as a result”. It’s worth unpacking this because every one of these allegations he bandied about is wrong. Continue reading →

Poverty is the real difference between school attainment levels

by Dave Watson

school pupilsThe Scottish Government’s Parentzone website has published data on the performance of school leavers. The Daily Record highlighted how these figures show a shocking class divide between the wealthiest and least well off areas of Scotland. This is Dave Watson’s opinion piece in the Daily Record that ran alongside the article. In it he argues that the difference tells us more about poverty than schools.

These figures don’t tell us much about schools. What they tell us is that poverty ruins lives. The enormous gap in qualifications between children in poor and wealthy areas is simply a reflection of the inequality that scars Scottish society. An appalling number of families are relying on foodbanks. You don’t need to be an educational psychologist to work out that a well fed child is going to be a better pupil than one who is hungry. Saying that looking at these figures tell you more about house prices than it does about standards in schools is no joke, it’s the truth. Continue reading →

The secret state is out of control: our privacy and freedom is threatened

by Diane Abbott

big-brother-1984In recent days a whistle blower has revealed that I was under surveillance by Special Branch in the nineteen eighties and nineties. I cannot say it comes as a complete surprise. Ever since the beginnings of the Labour movement, the state has made use of spies and informers. The recent revelations have been specifically about ten Members of Parliament. But I imagine that many readers of Left Futures have a Special Branch file somewhere as a result of their activities on the left or in their trade union.

When the issue was debated in parliament, there was stress on the fact that for the Special Branch to continue keep left activists under surveillance once they were members of parliament was a clear breach of parliamentary privilege. As the Guardian newspaper put it: 

this is both a grotesque breach of police power and a grave intrusion on the privilege of elected MPs, a privilege that exists to allow them to be guardians of their constituents’ freedoms”.

Continue reading →

£12bn more cuts will crucify poorest in society and are not necessary

by Michael Meacher

Austerity Stops hereSo the Tories are able to tell us that Labour plans to cut the deficit (which they have never seen) will increase costs by precisely £3,028 per household, a figure now definitively rubbished by the Institute of Fiscal Studies and which the Tory party chairman has now admitted is mere “guesswork”. Yet they can’t tell us how their much-trumpeted £12bn welfare cuts will be funded or who the (big time) losers will be. Surprising, that. Either they’ve never worked out how to achieve a further colossal £12bn cutback in welfare benefits or, much more likely, they know that to reveal what it’s going to cost the victims would be exceptionally damaging just 5 weeks away from the election. Continue reading →

Public Inquiry needed – was backlisting extended into the NHS?

by Andy Newman

BlacklistingGMB has revealed evidence  that there was a plan to extend blacklisting into NHS in 2005. There needs to be an inquiry whether this plan was put into effect.

Blacklisting in the construction industry came to light when in 2009 the ICO seized The Consulting Association (TCA) database of 3,213 construction workers and environmental activists used by 44 companies to vet new recruits and keep out of employment trade union and health and safety activists. TCA was run by Ian Kerr based in Worcestershire.

In new evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee Inquiry on blacklisting there is a private and confidential letter on TCA headed paper from Ian Kerr dated 22nd February 2005 entitled Healthcare – Facilities Management. It was sent to John Conner, Amec: Liz Keats, Carillion; Iain Coates, Emcor Drake & Scull; Don Walker, Haden Building Management; Danny O’Sullivan, Kier, Alf Lucas, John Mowlem; and Allison Wilkins and Stephen Quant, Skanska Rashleigh Weatherfoil. Continue reading →

Ann Black’s report from Labour’s March executive

by Ann Black

NEC Report AB

National Executive Committee, 24 March 2015

The NEC congratulated Rachael Maskell, Conor McGinn and Kate Osamor on their selection as parliamentary candidates for York Central, St Helens North and Edmonton. If all goes well and they are elected as MPs on 7 May, this will have been their last NEC meeting.

Lucy Powell, vice-chair of Labour’s general election campaign, reported that there was no sign of a Tory surge or a budget bounce.  The fifth and final pledge was launched in Birmingham on 14 March, promising a country where the next generation can do better than the last.  With Labour the recovery would put the NHS and working people first, and build a Britain that works for working people. She contrasted the Tories’ failing plan with a better plan for working families, because Britain only succeeds when working families succeed.  Controls on immigration would include more border police and withholding in-work and out-of-work benefits from migrants for two years, until they have paid into the system, as well as ensuring that employers cannot undercut wages and working conditions. NEC members were happy with the last part, but pointed out that it is not migrants’ fault if they are exploited. Continue reading →

Big four banks (with 1,629 subsidiaries in tax havens) are rotten heart of UK economy

by Michael Meacher

Big 4 banksThe more that comes to light about the nefarious activities of the Big four banks, the more extraordinary it is that these banks (a) demand a return to business as usual (which of course caused the financial crash in the first place), (b) continue to fight back against any reforms of a dysfunctional finance sector, feeble though these measures are, (c) show not a scintilla of remorse or apology for the decade of disaster they’ve imposed on ordinary people and the economy as a whole (remember Bob Diamond’s infamous comment “It’s time to move on” as though nothing had happened), and (d) have never been held to account by prosecutions of the chief executives, finance directors and other executives responsible. This is all the more staggering when what has now been revealed is the enormous extent to which all 4 banks not only indulged in, but actively promoted, tax evasion/avoidance on an industrial scale. Barclays has 385 subsidiary companies in tax havens (36% of all its subsidiaries), HSBC has 550, Lloyds has 290, and RBS has 404! Continue reading →

Labour’s Blues #3 – a coherent ‘anti-theory’ theory that must be challenged

by David Pavett

jon cruddas with question markIn Labour’s Blues #1, I attempted an overview of the recent book Blue Labour – Forging a New Politics . This was followed by Labour’s Blues #2 in which I questioned the values of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) which  receives high praise in Blue Labour. In this last piece I return to the arguments of Blue Labour as a whole.

Blue Labour politics is presented as “grounded” i.e. starting out from where people are. There is a strong insistence on developing relationships with others through joint activity and on “subsidiarity” (making decisions at the lowest appropriate level). From this basic standpoint a critique is developed of both neo-liberalism, seen as sacrificing our humanity to the logic of a narrowly conceived market-place, and statism, seen as excluding our humanity through a web of technocratic management. Continue reading →

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