There are many things on which we can agree about the referendum campaign. The mobilisation of masses of people in Scotland is a good thing. Whichever way the vote goes I hope the energy and positivity mobilised by Yes can feed into progressive politics and positive social change. It’s also kicked the complacency of establishment politics into touch in the rest of Britain. Seeing the powers that be panic as a huge movement blew up before them is something not seen too often. I hope the people of England and Wales are taking notice and the union, with or without Scotland, is radically recast. To be sure, after tomorrow we on the left have a hard job ensuring that not only is a new constitutional settlement for the rest of Britain argued for, but that it reflects the interests and aspirations of our class. These moments seldom come and to cede it to the wonks, the constitutional specialists, and the little England isolationists would be a terrible squandering of an opportunity. Continue reading →
The Scottish campaign for independence is effectively an uprising against the British state and its collusion with the globalized, mobile finance sector and supranational corporations. It is a protest against an economic and political system increasingly centralised and aloof—a protest bound to spread to other equally neglected regions.
It is a campaign to end allegiance to Westminster politicians that promote and/or tolerate austerity and the accelerating privatisation of the NHS and other national assets.
Rising anger against the establishment has mobilised support behind the campaign for Scottish independence. We share this anger and believe the Scots are right to challenge both the above, and also the narrow focus of Britain’s politicians on, e.g., voters in marginal seats. Continue reading →
For me the enduring image of the Referendum campaign will be of a large group of smartly clad Labour MPs, being pursued through the streets of Glasgow by a Yes campaigner on a rickshaw with a loud hailer, accompanied by the Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) from Empire Strikes Back. The man on the rickshaw goads the Labour MP’s, repeating ad nauseum – in fact, until he was hoarse – phrases like:
Glasgow, your imperial masters have arrived
Welcome your imperial masters
Bow down, Glasgow, to the Labour Party”
Some of the Better Together crew stopped to engage with their heckler, but most of the marchers walked on, only a little more briskly, towards their destination: a set piece photo opportunity led by Ed Miliband and a hundred handpicked Labour loyalists. The haranguing continues throughout. This was all captured by video and exported virally via YouTube: Continue reading →
From each according to his ability to contribute; to each according to his needs. That is the best principle that can govern the life of our country today.”
Thus Gordon Brown, at last and at his best, put socialism firmly at the heart of the reason to vote No in the Scottish referendum. It should have happened sooner. There never should have been a Better Together campaign. Labour and the Tories are better apart. Labour is (or should be) a socialist, internationalist party committed to democracy and solidarity not “unionism”. Continue reading →
Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the Huffington Post, last night reported that Labour’s conference could be severely curtailed in the event of a Yes vote in Scotland and the recall of parliament on Monday which seems likely. Although this report is unconfirmed, Mehdi is widely respected and I am not inclined to ignore his report. It would not, after all, be the first time that important decisions about party matters were taken in the Leader’s office without consultation with Labour’s executive (whose meeting in Glasgow on Tuesday was cancelled). Mehdi reported as follows:
Speaking on condition of anonymity, senior Labour sources confirmed that the party high command would cancel all speeches and fringe events, with the exception of the keynote address from Labour leader Ed Miliband next Tuesday, if the Scots vote for independence this coming Thursday.
Better Together has been short on emotion, and all of a sudden it’s there’s shouting and bawling all over the place. Almost. The Prime Minister has ventured north from Westminster twice to make heartfelt pleas to Scottish voters. And Gordon Brown (Gordon Brown!) has been stomping around making the passionate case for the union. Too little too late when compared with the apparent enthusiasm of the Yes campaign? We’ll only know for sure come Thursday.
But I want to be indulgent for a moment. I want to pause, and reflect. Way, way back in October 2008, as ears were ringing to the cacophony of crashing stock markets and all those ten-a-penny Trotskyist forecasts of economic crisis came to fruition, I took a brief break from thinking and blogging about those events to talk about how I felt. After all, the received political and economic wisdom was vaporising faster than sub prime mortgage trades. Having one’s coordinates suddenly shift was disconcerting and exhilarating, and while you could see the attacks to be unleashed on working people to pay for this crisis coming a mile off, for a brief moment it felt there was everything to play for. Continue reading →
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has produced its latest assessment of the economic crisis and its impact on government finances (pdf here). In common with the UK Treasury the OBR tends to underestimate the impact of austerity policies and consequently has a persistently over-optimistic outlook for the British economy. This is no surprise as the OBR uses the Treasury economic model.
Even so the detailed analysis by the OBR is very valuable as it reflects official thinking on the economy and on economic policy. This view will continue to be shared by the OBR and Treasury beyond the next election.
A key conclusion of the latest report is the assessment that austerity policies are set to continue for some time to come. The chart below shows the OBR’s assessment of the austerity policies and their composition from 2008/09 with projections until 2018/19. The policy measures of government spending cuts and tax change changes are expressed as a percentage of GDP. Continue reading →
At Labour’s conference in Manchester next week, delegates will be debating and voting on a number of key changes to the party’s rule book, tabled both by the national executive and by constituency parties. Grassroots proposals, under an obscure convention (known as the ‘1968 Ruling’) have been delayed for a year but the executive can agree rule changes one week and have them voted on by conference the following week!
It is vital that delegates ensure that constituency party proposals are given a fair hearing not brushed aside. Last year, in addition to the rule changes from that have been accepted by the conference arrangements committee for debate this year, there were no fewer than eight further rule changes proposed by 14 constituencies (Bermondsey & Old Southwark; West Ham; Bolsover; Runnymede & Weybridge; Maidstone & The Weald; Bridgend; Great Grimsby; Meriden; Newport West; Saffron Walden; Wirral West; Bracknell; Epsom & Ewell and Redcar) ruled out of order. Continue reading →
A YouGov poll this week says 85% want the next government to promote a stronger UK manufacturing base, with 62% believing it will give the country more economic security. They’re absolutely right of course, and that is the centrepiece of my book The State We Need: Keys to the Renaissance of Britain. But it isn’t going to happen unless there is a profound sea-change in the conventional wisdom of the 3 main political parties.
As long as economic policy is driven by austerity-first, there will almost certainly continue to be desperately low levels of investment, little or no growth or rise in output per head, no increase in living standards, all accompanies by rising national and government debt, increasing unemployment and relentless relative if not actually absolute decline. Continue reading →