Labour’s approach to central austerity question is still badly flawed

by Michael Meacher

The biggest issue at the coming general election will be how the deficit is to be handled over the next 5 years. The Tory proposal is to continue with the cuts till 2018-9 by which time they claim the structural deficit will have been eliminated. Their real and stated objective is to have continued with the cuts sufficiently long, indeed in some ways to have been intensifying them because so much of the cuts programme is back-end loaded, so that the welfare state is reduced to its level in 1948, in other words to eliminate all the social advances of the last 70 years.

The Labour proposal, unless amended at the National Policy Forum tomorrow, is to continue the cuts till 2019-20 to show we have equal prowess with the Tories in cutting public expenditure and “taking tough decisions”, but with the gloss that this also involves big reforms to markets and the public sector. What’s to choose between them? What is missing, glaringly missing, is the alternative to austerity which the whole nation, let alone the Labour party, is crying out for. Continue reading →

If unions simply vote for what they believe, Labour can present a bold popular programme

by Jon Lansman

United-we-bargain-Divided-we-begDoubts about tomorrow’s meeting of Labour’s national policy forum have already been raised by Jon Cruddas’s comments (£) about the “dead hand” of central control, which I argued remained a problem because of mistakes by Ed Miliband. Of course, party managers have ensured that Cruddas and policy forum chair, Angela Eagle, attempt to present a picture of Labour “united by a single desire” for “big reform, not big spending.” Today, press commentators at the Independent and Guardian reveal the truth – that party managers are set on preventing commitments to necessary, financially prudent and popular reforms like taking railways back into the state sector at the end of current franchises. As Patrick Wintour puts it:

Ed Miliband is facing a weekend of battles behind closed doors to persuade Labour party activists to back his manifesto, which faces grassroots challenges over railway renationalisation, welfare caps and labour regulation.

Note the reference to “party activists” and “grassroots challenges“. In spite of all the rows in recent years about the “power of the trade unions”, reaching a climax in the Collins report earlier this year, the pressure for a radical bold programme comes not from ‘union barons’ but from party activists. And there is every prospect that the trade unions will this time, as on almost every occasion in the party’s history, allow Labour’s leadership to get its way.

In the aftermath of the Collins report, Progress director Robert Philpot, ever eager for further attacks on the influence of trade unions, opined that “decades of ingrained cultural behaviour by the fixers and factionalists of machine politics do not just end with the passage of a rule change.” Too right. Except the truth of machine politics thoughout the history of the Labour Party is that ‘union barons’ have been not the fixers but the instrument of Leaders’ own fixing.

It needn’t be like that this weekend, nor in the future. Len McCluskey may have said to his union’s policy conference that now is not the time “heated arguments within the Labour Party about policy” but we don’t need public rows. If only trade union representatives would vote for the policies agreed through their own democratic  structures alongside their comrades from the constituency parties, we would be guaranteed also the opportunity to vote for progressive policies at the September party conference in Manchester. Continue reading →

Labour’s policy process: the stitch ups of old

by Peter Willsman

Gordon Brown at the NPF 2008This weekend, Labour’s national policy forum (NPF) meets in Milton Keynes for the last time before the general election. It will agree a programme which will be put to Labour Party conference for agreement in September. The last time the forum met to do this, known as “Warwick II”, was in 2008 with Gordon Brown as prime minister. Although at that time NPF constituency reps were not elected by OMOV, and every single one was the leadership’s favoured candidate “elected” at conference, the rest of the process this time has been similar in most respects. Here is Peter Willsman’s account of those proceedings, abridged from The saga of Warwick II in Campaign Briefing, published by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy in Autumn 2008 . Continue reading →

My speech on the “emergency” Data Protection Bill

by Michael Meacher

Commons chamberThe following is the text of my speech on the Data Protection and Investigatory Powers Bill:

I feel uneasy about the Bill on several grounds. As I am sure that we all do, I clearly accept that there is a need for a new law in order to establish a proper legal foundation to balance the right to privacy with the requirement to ensure security, but it should not be done in this way. The Official Secrets Act 1911 was rammed through this House in just one day in an atmosphere of fear and we have had to live with the undesirable consequences of a national security concept with blanket coverage ever since. Has the House really not learned that telescoping proper parliamentary scrutiny is nearly always dangerous and can lead to unexpected outcomes as we helplessly watch the law of unintended consequences kick in? Continue reading →

Podemos is Spain’s 3rd political force, and poll gives radical left 26% in total

by Tom Gill

Camiseta Pablo Iglesias PODEMOSAn opinion poll puts the radical new formation Podemos (We Can) in third position with 15% of people surveyed indicating backing for the party led by the ponytailed 35-year-old university lecturer Pablo Iglesias.

Pollster CIS found that 15% of people supported Podemos, almost double the 8% the fourth-month old party garnered in the European elections, and ahead of the traditional force of the radical left, Izquierda Unida, with 11%.The ruling Popular Party (PP) and the Socialists (PSOE) both scored 24.4% compared to 26.06% and 23% respectively in the elections to the European parliament. Continue reading →

National demonstration for Gaza: assemble Downing Street 12 noon Sat 19 July

by Newsdesk

national_demo1400 Israeli air strikes, over 1000 rockets fired, and Israel says there is much more to come. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed, 77% of them civilians, a quarter of them children. 1500 have been injured, 800 homes destroyed. Israeli prime minister Netanyahu says, “No international pressure will prevent us from striking.

Israel’s barbaric bombardment of the most densely populated area on earth must stop now. Barack Obama, David Cameron and UK foreign secretary William Hague’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself is nothing less than collusion with war crimes killing women, children and disabled people.

Please join the demonstration this Saturday, 19 July, assembling at 12 Noon outside Downing Street, London, before marching to the Israeli Embassy. Continue reading →

The roll of honour: opposed to the Indiscriminate Mass Surveillance Bill

by Jon Lansman

commons bench by UK Parliament, file at http://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/2700549765/sizes/s/in/photostream/Sunny Hundal makes the crucial point about  this morning on Labour List: “an emergency was concocted. There’s little point in complaining about the rush because that was the whole point.” Ed Miliband’s Labour Party went along with it and Sunny rightly says “Ed Miliband’s civil liberties credentials are now in tatters.” Presumably, the calculation  was that the vital Lib Dem to Labour switchers will stick with us because the Lib Dems are even worse.

Twenty-two members of the Labour Party opposed the bill at second reading accompanied by only four Lib Dems and ten Tories. Many more abstained. But all the minority parties (with the exception of Respect) were there.

Tom Watson deserves particular praise for his stand, and I’m afraid Yvette Cooper particular blame, in spite of her competent delivery. Yvette has provided good reason why Ed should look elsewhere for a Labour Home Secretary. As Sunny explains: Continue reading →

Dennis Skinner’s speech to Durham Miners Gala

by Dennis Skinner

Dennis Skinner, speaking to the Durham Miners Gala in brilliant sunshine last Saturday. After having been ejected from Labour’s national executive the previous week by Labour MPs, he was in fine form, speaking about Cameron, the public sector strikes and ballot rules, the miners’ strike, Thatcher’s “share-owning democracy,” the mantra of “balancing the books” and much else.

Video by ‘gustinden’

Standing on the shoulders of giants

by Grahame Morris

Tony Benn at Durham Miners GalaThis year’s 130th Durham Miners Gala was a huge success. The weather was perfect, there were over 60 banners from former coalfields across the region and the festival atmosphere was complete with superb brass bands playing everything from miners classics to modern standards.

The Gala remains the UK’s largest annual trade union gathering despite the closure of the surrounding coalfields. This year’s event marked 30 years since the miners’ strike and the predictions of the Gala’s inevitable demise have never materialised with over 100,000 attending the Big Meeting. Continue reading →

The Tories shuffling towards defeat

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

Cameron & Gove at No 10What a weird cabinet reshuffle“, muses Dan Hodges. “Massacre of the moderates!” shouts Labour. Yes, really. “Brutal ministerial cull” says The Mirror. On and on it goes. Yes, some Tory careers have limped unlamented into the night, including some big hitters. But the story is of ruthlessness and verve, of Dave slicing through his government and leaving behind him a pile of quivering limbs. Dan can barely hide his admiration. This is the audacity of a PM at the top of his game. Au contraire, this reshuffle is symptomatic of weakness and a belief that the Tories are looking down the barrel of electoral defeat. Continue reading →

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