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 →

Whatever happened to the workers? Is Labour now a middle class party?

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

working classThe key to “professional” success in the land of comment is to never let the facts get in the way of a good narrative. If hard numbers and social realities are inconvenient, one can safely shove them aside in the assured knowledge they won’t come back to haunt the writer. Especially if one is a star columnist in a newspaper with broadly the same politics. On this occasion, it’s Janan Ganesh writing in the Financial Times about Jeremy Corbyn, class, and UKIP. And yes, it’s rubbish. Here, Janan had given his own spin to the political meme doing the rounds – that the Labour Party has got taken over by the middle class.

As it happens, there are numbers – not consulted in Janan’s piece – that bear out this analysis, but only to a degree. Published by The Graun last week, the party has attracted disproportionate numbers of home-owning inner city yuppie/hipster-types. They account for something like four per cent of the general population, while they’re a mahoosive 11.2% of our party’s membership. 10% of members are in “prestige positions“, as against nine per cent of the population. Meanwhile, rural workers and the less well-off are underrepresented. Continue reading →

What hope for Gaza?

by David Pavett

Destruction in Gaza after Israeli bombardment, part of Operation Pillar of Defense Date	by Scott BobIn 1993 the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat shook hands on the lawn of the White House to seal the deal of the Oslo Accords (Oslo I). The terms of the accord were vague but gave rise to hope and received support from both Palestinians and Israelis. The accord envisaged an agreement leading to a “final status” solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict within five years.

In 1995 negotiations in Egypt (Taba) tried to put flesh on the bones of Oslo I (the result being referred to as Oslo II). This divided Palestinian territories into a series of regions most of which were controlled by Israel. It also set up the Palestinian Authority for which Yassar Arafat was elected as the President. Continue reading →

Bernie Sanders for US President

by Jon Lansman

The Nation, the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States, “the flagship of the left” as it describes itself, has come out in support of Bernie Saunders for US President, only the third time it has support a US Presidential candidate (the previous two being Jesse Jackson in 1988 and Barack Obama in 2008). The campaign of Sanders, like that of Jeremy Corbyn last summer, has attracted unprecedented support for a socialist candidate. He has raised $77m in small donations from over 1m individuals. “Bernie Sanders and his supporters are bending the arc of history toward justice. Theirs is an insurgency, a possibility, and a dream that we proudly endorse,” says the Nation and this is how it goes on to explain its decision: Continue reading →

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