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Labour leadership contestants need to break out of Tory cage

Labour Leadership Candidates and now they are 4_edited-1What is so disappointing (so far) about the Labour leadership contest is the failure to edge the party to any significant degree away from a look-alike Tory posture. Osborne launches the biggest cuts programme of the last century, and we are told that if we wish to be taken seriously we must be as fiscally conservative as the government. Osborne preens himself with running the economy on a permanent surplus, and Labour, not to be outdone, endorses the idea, absurd and unworkable as it is. The Tories taunt Labour for being on the side of shirkers against strivers – a ridiculous claim when Osborne has just impoverished millions of workers in poverty by severe cutbacks in working tax credits – but Labour, for fear of being lampooned by the Mail for being soft on ‘lifestyle’ benefit recipients, lamely echoes its support for tightening the benefit cap. When is Labour going to stand up and assert what it really believes in?

What do the leadership candidates feel about the egregious degree of inequality that now tarnishes British society, and how exactly would they tackle it? Do they feel market forces are working well, and if not, how would they introduce a counter-balancing morality, justice and accountability into the economic system? if the banks have too much power which they have now been shown to have grossly abused, how should be restructured? Does Labour still believe in full employment, and if so, how should it be restored? Can Britain ever really prosper again without a long-term industrial revival, and how should that be brought about? As the Tories pile on pressure on the unions to try to make them wholly subservient to neoliberal capitalism, will Labour restore them to their rightful place as full partners in the industrial workplace?

Has Labour lost its real voice? The public doesn’t want to hear how ‘responsible’ we are in clinging close to the prevailing ideology, or how readily we adopt the caricatures that the rampaging Tories are foisting on the public consciousness. They want to hear what we truly believe in and proclaim out loud. This may sometimes involve defending a stance which the Tory propaganda machine has made unpopular – like arguing why a welfare state is needed, why more money should be spent on rehabilitation rather than just banging up offenders in prison, or why Britain should contribute towards reducing migrant loss of life in the Mediterranean. But that is what political leaders are for – not assuring the public they’re on side with every passing prejudice that the right-wing press has magnified, but declaring boldly and vigorously the values and principles that capture the imagination for any worthwhile society.

22 Comments

  1. Mervyn Hyde says:

    Sadly most Labour MPs only consider their own political prospects and not wishing to rock the boat.

    The past forty years has seen the diminution of Labour policies and adherence to Neo-Liberal theology; you would have thought as Ed Miliband made reference to when he stood as leader that having recognised the failure of those policies, that they would reflect on how Labour has also lost support through it; instead they maintain that it is because Labour are not right wing enough.

    I have to admit that recent contact with active supporters of Labour locally, leave me with the distinct impression that they are comfortable in their mind-set, that working with the Tories is seen as less harmful than openly opposing them, whilst the Tories recognise that that you destroy and oppose everything the opposition stand for.

    So whilst Labour re-enforce Tory policies the Tories tar Labour with their own.

    It also goes without saying, that New Labour are pro privatisation and are culpable for the deregulation of the financial sector, everything that flies in the face of what real Labour stands for.

    It is therefore incumbent on members of the Labour party to ask themselves who they are actually opposing and what real policies they support.

  2. Alan Brooke says:

    After nearly 50 years of voting labour and being an activist, I see little hope for the party in my lifetime. Labour has provided the most inept opposition I have known and, the signs are that it will continue to do so. The Tories know this and believe they can get away with anything. It would be wrong to label all Labour MPs with the self-seeking opportunism shown by people such as Alan Milburn and Patricia Hewitt who couldn’t wait to work for private health care companies. Sadly this is the impression coming across. Where is the fight, the commitment to a cause, the passion and rage about what is happening? The public mood is more receptive to a real alternative than many on the right of the party realise.

    1. Matty says:

      “Where is the fight”
      Jeremy Corbyn of course – http://www.jeremyforlabour.com/

      Also his petition against tax credit cuts is over 18,000 already http://jeremyforlabour.takeaction.org.uk/petition/childtaxcredits

    2. John P Reid says:

      The opposition now is weak, but ,compared to the embaresment we had when, the party members was over ruling, the leaders policy at conference regarding the miners strike, I think it’s tranquil now

  3. John P Reid says:

    Why put up the Tory Kendall poster,,as your main pictureisn’t this site serious, that pictures a spoof, are you going to put up a Corrbyn for SWP leader picture

    1. Mervyn Hyde says:

      John you epitomise everything that is wrong on the right of Labour, it is one thing to have your own view on policies and to put the best defence possible on them; but when it is proven over time, and there is now substantial evidence in place that shows Austerity does not work; why would anyone with a brain continue to support it, if it were not for personal or financial gain.

      1. John P Reid says:

        Any reason to believe from my post I support austerity, I just don’t think Kendall is a Tory and other so called labour supporters shouldn’t say this anymore than I should say Corbyn for SWP leader, I haven’t tried to get pope ousted from the party unless they break the rules, endorse criminals or non Labour Party members

      2. John P Reid says:

        You also okay I’m what is wrong on the right of the party, IE, winning elections, that your view, same as mine is, that the left of the party lose labour elections, blame e erroneous else, deny its their fault labour lose, or even if they accept that it’s their fault say it’s a moral victory,to stop labour swinging too the centre

        1. Mervyn Hyde says:

          John- look at the video I linked to on this thread, this is a man that single handed took on the American establishment, look at the response from those crowds, he is even now regarded as the sole opponent to Hilary Clinton in the nomination race.

          Listen to what he is saying, it resonates with people because he relates to them, not pandering to the powerful elite.

          1. John P Reid says:

            Video o.k doesn’t deflect from your view that I’m wrong, and that you must accept your lot,lose labour votes

          2. Mervyn Hyde says:

            The idea that the left lose Labour votes is simply nonsense, the fact is that we have not a left wing government since Harold Wilson, that since Blair New Labour has lost between 3-4 million voters, Left wing views actually resonate with the public, there were in the last four years polls taken that showed in the south east that 20% of Tory commuters would vote Labour if they would nationalise the railways.

            The other thing that right wingers always say is that we need to be financially credible and that we need to pay down the deficit.

            1. That is in fact not true, we could print money into the economy just like we did for the Bankrupt Banks, that is not being voiced in the Labour party and people are not hearing.

            To quote Henry Ford, “If Americans understood how the banks make their money, then there would be a revolution before the morning,”

            Well the reason there won’t be a revolution is because the politicians are keeping the secret to themselves.

            We need politicians that work for people not themselves.

          3. John P Reid says:

            Yes and who increased those votes in the first place Blair and Kinnocks ,Left futures here stating last week, it was Kinocks reforms that saw him lose 2 elections, as the start of new labour in the first place,
            And if we take the argument of left wing governments
            gaitskell got 12.4m votes in 1959″ andFoot got 8.4m 23 years later so old labour lost 4 million votes in a similar amount of time.

            Quoting Wilson ,who got 11.4m in Oct 1974′ 38% of the vote on a 72% turnout, as low a turnout as during blairs early time,isn’t a source for success.

          4. Mervyn Hyde says:

            Gerry:

            There are facts out there in poll form that point to support for left wing policies such as the NHS, rail privatisation along with the utilities etc., welfare.

            The other major facts are that we have historical precedents such as the post war government that only lost power because the Tories offered people that had suffered the twenties and thirties and end to austerity. The Tories as they always do offered them sweeties, I well remember rationing, and they gullibly fell for it, whilst the Tories then created deficits, which created growth, we averaged 3% of GDP until around the seventies when Neo-Liberals like Healey introduced public expenditure cuts.

            After Thatcher we have only averaged 1.5% growth down to the latest 0.3% and we are still bouncing along the bottom.

            The facts are that most people do not understand as even Labour after war didn’t that we can print government money into circulation that would expand our economic horizons, with this kind of vision people could with a little imagination grasp that the capitalist system is rationing their futures and limiting progress for no good purpose.

            That is the future a radical left government could place before people, the alternative is the prospects facing Greece and a very nasty society to boot.

            The evidence is there, but you need to look for it. If we had politicians like Bernie and Jeremy at the forefront pushing these messages instead of the plethora of right wingers denying people a future, then things could be much different.

            Finally Professor Mark Blyth spells it out factually and succinctly enough for anyone to understand:

  4. gerry says:

    Mervyn – the basic problem for all politicians of the Left or Centre-Left is: what do you do when the working class ( in whose name your parties claim to represent) behave/vote in contradiction to what you say are their interests?

    Harriet Harman and Liz Kendall say: most working class voters support drastic benefit cuts, caps, cuts to tax credits etc…therefore we must be pragmatic, listen to them, and adjust our opposition accordingly.

    Jeremy Corbyn and others say: most working class voters are wrong to support benefit cuts, caps, etc and we must not listen to their prejudices but keep stating our opposition to welfare cuts.

    And this is the same argument across dozens of policy areas where the people we claim to represent have wildly different views, and indeed voting habits (more of the poorest social groups (43%) voted Tory/UKIP in 2015 than Labour (41%)!) than what are traditional “left” or ” left of centre” positions.

    Both positions have moral value in them – and most people don’t fall into easy “left” and “Right” categories, as Owen Jones rightly says. But this is the root question for social democrat/left of centre parties everywhere today.

    1. Mervyn Hyde says:

      Gerry:

      I have been watching Senator Bernie Sanders now for over 5 years, he has shown what can be achieved politically, even from the point where he has suffered the kind of vilification that Tony Benn went through, and come out the other side.

      That is due to his consistency, instead of running away from power and the corrupt he took them head on, and exposed them for what they were and today this is the result, he is in no illusion as to whether he will ultimately succeed, but that still doesn’t hold him back.

      That is the kind of integrity most of us are looking for, capitulation to Tory fantasies is not even going to impress the Tory voters that they want to win over, instead the reinforce everything the Tories stand for.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3JMTtxgF4o#t=91

      This is sweeping America, the home of free enterprise capitalism.

      1. gerry says:

        Video is good stuff, have heard Bernie Sanders’ pitch a few times before….the US had Eugene Debs and other social democrat populists way back in the 1920s and 1930s and he reminds me of them.

        But the UK elections of 1983, 1987 and 1992 when there were clear Left/right choices on offer resulted in clear Tory wins, with over half of working class votes going to parties of the Right: no opinion, Mervyn, but clear electoral fact.

        You can never predict the future (I didn’t see the wipeout in Scotland coming) and going left might now be electorally a winner, but please don’t pretend that you know for sure that a left Labour party will win back working class votes: you don’t know that at all, and that is the truth of it.

        1. Mervyn Hyde says:

          Gerry:

          I listened intently to the latest Labour Hustings in Leamington, and felt as most do, that after hearing what those you are likely to support have to say, nothing triggered any sense that they had any real answers.

          And so I’ll point out their weakness for you and would like your response, because this is pivotal to any form of economic success.

          1. The deficit.

          The right in the party Andy Burnham, and Yvette Cooper say that we must pay down the deficit, then recognise that Labour were not profligate in public spending, Andy is confused in his mixed message because he tries appear financially competent whilst talking prudent, in other words looking both ways at once.

          Liz Kendal says we have to accept the Tories version of events and that we must appear credible. (although she never says it that way, but her remedies spell it all out) She favours austerity.

          So they really are all just more of the same, if we were to have a rerun of the election tomorrow how many Tories would switch to Labour. Those that Liz Kendal says did not trust Labour on the economy.

          The FACT is that they are all peddling Neo-Liberal theology, some like Andy Burnham may not even be aware of it, he is a typical weather vane politician that doesn’t really worry about the facts of the matter so long as he steers a course that doesn’t offend the media.

          The other FACT is they are all economically incompetent or lying and I think it is a bit of both.

          We don’t have a problem with the deficit, we do have the money for our public services, and we do not have to privatise our public services, which they will all do.

          The reason that we do not trust these people is not as Liz says, on the economy, but when you start questioning their policies and outcomes, they bring down the draw bridge, and stifle the debate, in other words they obfuscate to cover up their real agenda, that is the same as the Tories, privatisation.

          2. Jobs.

          Whilst even now most of the public sector is in private hands and after these Neo-Liberal politicians of all colours have finished, there will be no public sector to control as it will all be private.

          The failing private sector keep telling us they can’t afford to pay real wages and have singularly failed to create all those jobs Thatcher promised. Blair and Brown’s Guru.

          So without a public sector under government control, where are all these high tech jobs going to come from that Yvette Cooper gets so animated about. The simple truth is she is talking nonsense as with the others.

          The jobs the Tories claim they created are self employed low paid workers that were made redundant or public sector workers transferred under TUPE.

          So in the real world, how do they create jobs as a government, when the jobs are controlled by the private sector. The answer is well they haven’t created them to-date and will be even less likely to in the future.

          Unless we as people take control of the economy, then we can’t control it, that is a simple fact.

          Where are all these multi billionaires just waiting to pour money into creating all these high skilled high paid jobs?

          This is all fantasy politics, that is why we do not trust those to the right of Jeremy.

          We have the money to create real jobs, we have the people who need real jobs, but we have only got mickey mouse politicians that are more concerned with their own careers rather than serving the interests of the nation.

  5. gerry says:

    Mervyn – I agree with your analysis re austerity and job creation. I agree that Liz, Andy, Yvette will – like Tony and Gordon – be centre-right on economics, and they will largely accept the Thatcher consensus.

    You have to admit though that early New Labour did some really good redistributive things, and did reduce child poverty – Sure Start, minimum wage, tax credits, higher spending on education and health, all these things made a big difference to lots of people, which is why we were in power for 13 years, the longest period by far our party has ever been in power!

    But yes they never broke from the Thatcherite consensus on the economy – as others have noted, the trauma of the 1980s when working class voters backed parties of the Right en masse (70% voted Tory or Alliance in 1983, 67% in 1987, 63% in 1992!) reinforced the electoral truth: going Left means losing elections big-time.

    You say that this has all changed – that working class voters in the UK will abandon UKIP or the SNP or the Tories or non-voting apathy IF we rediscover proper socialism and reject the Thatcherite ecomonic consensus and offer a clear Left alternative: you don’t have a shred of evidence to prove this ( and the abject surrender of Syriza in Greece reinforces the Tory message that there is no alternative to neoliberalism) but neither can I say for sure that you are wrong.

    I can only say that actual voting in previous general elections does show that since 1928 parties of the Right , especially Conservatives, have repeatedly won many more votes than parties of the Left, and that working class voters since 1979 have repeatedly backed Conservative or other Right parties (Alliance, now UKIP). Thats all that people like John P Reid and I are pointing out – but, Mervyn, you do seem to ignore these electoral facts, and this deep seated reality.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Quite

      1. gerry says:

        John – cheers.

        Mervyn – good video, easy to understand.

        But finally in your last post you say what you really mean – you call the working class voters who repeatedly vote Tory “gullible” because they backed the Tories after being offered “sweeties” in 1950 and 1951. Your view is the standard left view – that working class people who vote Tory or UKIP or Alliance are gullible, easily deceived by right wing lies, bribes, media, prejudices.

        Has it never occurred to you that many working class people who vote for the Right know exactly why they do so, and simply prefer right wing narratives, policies, and parties? I grew up around working class Tories (and some even more right wing than that!) – they would call you patronising and snobbish for saying they are gullible!

        1. Tim Barlow says:

          They ARE gullible idiots, though, not to mention class traitors and they can call me whatever they like! Every class is burdened with it’s morons…

  6. David Pavett says:

    At first I thought this article was very bizarre because Michael Meacher seemed to be grouping all four leadership candidates together. I thought “Doesn’t he know that Jeremy Corbyn is anti-austerity? Why does he group them with the rest?”. Then I read again

    What do the leadership candidates feel about the egregious degree of inequality that now tarnishes British society, and how exactly would they tackle it? Do they feel market forces are working well, and if not, how would they introduce a counter-balancing morality, justice and accountability into the economic system? if the banks have too much power which they have now been shown to have grossly abused, how should be restructured? Does Labour still believe in full employment, and if so, how should it be restored? Can Britain ever really prosper again without a long-term industrial revival, and how should that be brought about?

    I then realised that these question do apply to Jeremy Corbyn as much as to the other candidates. He must get beyond generalised anti-austerity declarations and talk details about the alternative. He is on a roll. If he is not to lose momentum then he has to spell out the meaning of his headline statements.

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