Parliamentary reform should be major objective for next government

by Michael Meacher

What they never told you about ParliamentParliament is currently not fit for purpose. It isn’t just the corruption – the expenses scandal, the recent Rifkind-Straw venality, the link between life peerages and party donations reported yesterday. More insidious and even more damaging is the way that Parliament presently operates fundamentally undermines any serious degree of democratic accountability. Tribalism (my party right or wrong) and careerism (keep in with the Whips if you want ministerial preferment) are rampant, and often override objective assessment of the issues. On government bills at report stage MPs frequently vote without knowing what they’re voting for, but just blindly follow the Whips. On non-government business which often reflects electors’ intense concern, the government simply ignores any vote they lose. Continue reading →

South American Left united as US aims for regime change in Venezuela

by Matt Willgress

Yankees go homeOn 9 March, US President Barack Obama signed an executive order declaring “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela” and imposed a further round of sanctions on the South American country.

Following the introduction of sanctions earlier in the year and numerous hostile statements from leading figures in the US administration, including John Kerry and Joe Biden, this latest act of aggression has sent out a clear signal that the US has prioritised the overthrow of the elected government.

It is also remarkably similar to an order signed by Ronald Reagan in 1985 against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, which added presidential authority to the destabilisation of a country which at the time — like Venezuela today — was trying to build a different type of society. Continue reading →

Labour’s Blues – anti-secular, anti-rational, more radical conservative than socialist?

by David Pavett

BlueLabourCoverWith the 2015 general election almost upon us everyone knows that, even with the boosting effect (for the big parties) of our first past the post system, Labour is unlikely to win a majority of seats. The outcome of the election is especially unpredictable due to the decline of the major parties and the rise of the SNP, the Greens and UKIP. We don’t know what the political landscape will look like on 8 May.

Speculation is rife as to the consequences for Labour of various outcomes of the election. These will not be discussed here. But what can be said is that the battle for Labour’s soul is clearly under way and the recently published Blue Labour – Forging a New Politics (publisher I.B. Tauris) is a major statement of position in this process. Continue reading →

Tectonic plates shifting in world power structure are signs of a new world order

by Michael Meacher

Something has just happened which got hardly any attention in the media, but which is very important. The recent setting up by China of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank may not seem likely to excite the passions, but it should. For this is clearly an intention by the big Asian powers to challenge the World Bank and the IMF which have been the cornerstone of Western (for which read US) domination of the global economy since Bretton Woods in 1944 and the main deliverers of the so-called ‘Washington consensus’. It is equally significant that several of Washington’s European allies, led by Britain, have signed up to become founding members of the new bank, despite vigorous US lobbying to stop them joining. France, Germany and Italy have also now joined up, and Australia and South Korea are also now thought likely to join. This unprecedented desertion of the US approach by its key allies has left Washington scrambling to recover from a major setback. But the immediate signs are that it’s not succeeding. Continue reading →

The Tory & the EDL: Afzal Amin and the politics of cynicism

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

Afzal AminAs Tory scandals go, it’s a bit of a corker. Forget Grant Shapps and his name-changing hijinks, the furore that has erupted over Afzal Amin’s attempted dealings with the EDL is the real deal.If you don’t know what I’m talking aboutand asking “Afzal who?”, then where have you been? Here is an incriminating extract from one recording made between Amin, the Tory PPC for Dudley North (where they’re trailing Labour and UKIP in the polls), and representatives of the EDL: Continue reading →

Why we should say NO to welfare cuts in the next Parliament

by Michael Meacher

SAY NO TO WELFARE CUTSThere is an auction taking place on the size of the welfare cuts to be imposed in the next 5 years. The Tories are arguing for £30bn cuts in the first 2 years to 2017-8 via no tax rises, £12bn in welfare cuts, £5bn in extra corporate tax evasion revenues, and bigger departmental cuts (up to £17bn). The LibDems accept the overall £30bn target set by the Tories, but propose to reach it by £6bn in higher taxes, £6bn by clamping down on corporate tax evasion, £12bn in departmental cuts, and £3.5bn in welfare cuts. The Labour party has not explained in detail how it would reach its target of eliminating the structural deficit by 2019-20, though the cuts would be less than under the Tories and confined to current expenditure, not capital expenditure. Nobody is saying that there should be no welfare cuts in the next 5 years. But they should be, for several strong reasons. Continue reading →

A response to “I didn’t leave the Labour Party, the Labour Party left me”

by Ben Sellers

Jack Monroe changing partiesI write this, not as a response to Jack Monroe, who announced that she’d left the Labour Party to join the Greens this week, but as a response to the many hundreds of good, socialists activists who have left the Labour Party over the years. It’s not meant as a rebuke, but merely to ask some important questions about their reasoning and our strategy as socialists. Whilst it’s understandable that people who consider themselves socialists have constant battles with their conscience about leaving the Labour Party, we must be careful of the mantra:

I didn’t leave the Labour Party, the Labour Party left me”

Continue reading →

There is nothing radical about little Englandism

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

village cricketI’m not an avid follower of Paul Kingsnorth’s work, but I do remember his One No, Many Yeses. This was a contribution – some may say cash-in – to the burgeoning library on the internationalist, anti-capitalist, and fashionably networky movement of sundry NGOs, anarchists and occasional Trots of the early part of the last decade. As something of a radical travelogue, our Paul flitted from country to country giving us the low down on the Zapatistas (of course), the G8 summit in Genoa, hung out with gold miners in New Guinea, and all other kinds of things. It was an uncritical celebration of this most rooted of rootless movements, an advert for the New Way of Doing Things. The book stuck in my mind because it helped fill an adventure of my own – a bus trip from Stoke to Telford. Continue reading →

Osborne fiddles the figures – again – on living standards

by Michael Meacher

In a budget speech spent firefighting against his opponents’ attacks, Osborne’s most eye-catching claim was that household incomes are now higher in 2015 than in 2010. However like everything else this slippery chancellor does, nothing should be taken at face value. And once again the spin he has put on the facts is wildly misleading. He chose as his measure ‘real household disposable income per capita’ which he said is expected to show at the end of 2015 a marginally higher level than in 2010. Apart from the fact that it is a forecast, not a fact, the real question is whether it is the right metric for measuring living standards in the first place. It is badly flawed because it includes items that people wouldn’t consider as income at all such as ‘imputed rents’ (i.e. the rent that homeowners might receive if they did not live in their own home!). It also includes, bizarrely, the incomes of charities, universities and trade unions! Continue reading →

Austerity and economic failure to continue

by Michael Burke

Follow your dreams (cancelled) by BanksyThe Tory election campaign is based on the claimed success of the government’s economic policy, as the hype around the latest budget confirms. In reality the Tories’ economic record has been unprecedentedly poor. Their economic policy is not primarily aimed at increasing growth or prosperity but rather at effecting a fundamental change in the economy which entails a very large transfer of incomes from workers and the poor to big business and the rich. This project is very far from complete and is set to continue. Continue reading →

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