Labour needs a Corbynista leadership in Scotland

by Barry Gray

The Scottish Labour leadership contest this autumn is important for the entire Labour Party in Britain, because how the party performs in Scotland will be a significant factor in whether Labour can form the next UK government. For Labour to win it is vital Scottish Labour improves on its poor performances at the 2015 and 2017 general elections. That requires the Scottish party to change its political orientation. A new leadership is needed that will promote Jeremy Corbyn’s popular anti-austerity agenda to the Scottish electorate. Continue reading →

A Spectacular Own Goal?

by David Pavett

A new group called the Labour Campaign for Free Movement has been launched. It says that thousands have already signed up to its campaign statement. It is also clearly hoping that the model resolution it has circulated will make it through to annual conference.

An article by Hugh Lanning on Labour List puts the campaign’s case for free movement in five points. Continue reading →

Towards a National Pharmaceutical Service

by Chris MacMackin

There are some problems which are too big for the private sector to handle. I’ve given extensive arguments explaining why this is the case for climate change and why solutions will require public ownership of energy. However, there is another set of less well known problems which are going to require similar state action: those around pharmaceutical companies.

While there is a certain amount of hysteria and fear-mongering about “big pharma”, the drug companies are far from innocent. There are well known cases of companies withholding and manipulating data. Health authorities are periodically hit by shortages of vital drugs due to supply chain problems or cessation of manufacturing. Companies demand high prices for patented drugs and have even been jacking up the cost of generics. They demand for the legal monopoly that is patent protection in exchange for developing new drugs, yet still fail to invest in developing treatments for rare diseases. We see pharmaceutical companies raking in spectacular profits, claiming it is needed to fund research. However, almost all of them spend more on marketing their drugs than they do researching new ones and profits far outstrip investment on research. Continue reading →

Labour Policy and Annual Conference

by David Pavett

After the politically stultifying years of Blair/Brown and its aftermath under Miliband, Labour members voted for a left-wing leader in 2015. This was a palace revolution without a changing of the guard. All the old structures and place-holders remain largely unchanged. They were, and are, either incompatible or largely hostile to the new leadership as has been demonstrated publicly on numerous occasions.

The essential point is that the new leadership did not come to power on the basis of winning a series of battles for policies and positions following which the whole thing was consolidated by the election of a new leader. Jeremy Corbyn became leader on the basis of a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the political elite in general and with the leadership of the Labour Party in particular. Miliband claimed to be making a break with Blairism but was unable to do so other than rhetorically. In Corbyn the majority of members saw the chance for a real change of direction. Many saw this as an opportunity to revive the ideals of socialism and democracy. Continue reading →

Sports Direct are still using zero hour contracts

by Keith Wright

SPORTS DIRECT is still recruiting for zero hour jobs in a spite of a promise to scrap them. The notorious sportswear retailer, whose bosses will face a grilling at its AGM on Friday, said a year ago that it would offer guaranteed hours to its staff.

But new job ads on the company website explicitly state that recruits are offered “no guaranteed hours of work”. The ads say that “hours of work can therefore vary from week to week and, as a result, there may be weeks when no hours of work are offered”. Continue reading →

NPF Report reviews – Work, Pensions and Equality

by Rory O'Kelly

Serious discussions of Social Security policy start from a few fundamental questions. One is the balance between contributions and means-testing as a basis for entitlement, another the balance between vertical redistribution, from richer to poorer, and horizontal redistribution, between different stages in the life cycle. A third is the relationship between the social security welfare state, operated through cash payments, and the parallel welfare state based on tax allowances.

Readers will search this National Policy Forum (NPF) report in vain for references to any of these. Contributions are not mentioned. Universal credit seems to be accepted in principle, suggesting general endorsement of means-testing, but this is an inference. The idea that tax allowances have a similar function to benefits seems unknown to the authors. An earlier consultation document pointed out that the dichotomy between ‘strivers’ and ‘skivers’ was false, implying a recognition that ‘workers’ and ‘claimants’ are not fixed groups. Most people are members of both groups at different points in their lives, and many at the same time. The final report could have built on this insight, but in fact drops it completely. Continue reading →

NPF Report reviews: Health & Care

by Brian Gibbons

There is nothing like a snap General Election to shake health and care priorities out a thicket of possible options and fuzzy thinking. And like the rest of the document, the health and care proposals in the Labour Manifesto struck a chord with the wider public and with health and social care staff.

The headline messages from the Manifesto were an increase in NHS and Care spending of £38 billion over the lifetime of the next parliament. This makes sense as it is clear that NHS performance has deteriorated as public investment has declined. To get the best value from these increases Labour promised to invest in staff, end the commercialisation of care and to promote greater cohesion within the health service itself and with social care. Mental health funding would have a new priority with a ring-fenced budget and a greater emphasis on the needs of younger people. Continue reading →

NPF Reports review: Housing

by Duncan Bowie

Housing, which was covered by the Communities policy commission, is now incorporated within the Housing, Local Government and Transport Policy Commission. It has met three times between February and April.  Given the breadth of this remit, there appear to only have been a limited focus on housing issues. According to the annual report, concern about the Right to Buy scheme was mentioned at the first meeting apparently because this was the focus of motions passed at the 2016 conference. The second meeting discussed the impact of leaving the EU on housing. The third meeting was attended by Eileen Short from Defend Council Housing and Alistair Smith from the National Housing Federation. This discussed the powers of councils to tackle rogue landlords, the need for public land to be used to build social and council housing and how to help first time buyers onto the housing ladder. The policy commission does not appear to have met since the general election. As the election was unexpected, there was no time for the Commission to meet to discuss the manifesto, though regional and local government members were phoned for comments. Continue reading →

Brexit: some questions

by Peter Rowlands

1) To what extent would a hard Brexit result in a substantial economic downturn from which no recovery would be likely in the short term?

The answer depends on the deal/or none that is eventually concluded. It could be that the EU offers a free trade deal, on the grounds that not to do so would be as damaging to the EU as it would be to the UK. If this was the case most of those who export much or most of what they produce to the EU would have no incentive to move, a major fear if tariffs were imposed, particularly for the automotive industry, although this would obviously also have to apply to finance and services. This would represent a triumph and rehabilitation for May, and put Labour on the defensive, but it looks very unlikely. In any event, such a deal could only be concluded after the UK had left the EU in March 2019, and uncertainty over its likelihood would have probably precipitated substantial movement of firms out of the UK before it was concluded, as appears to already be happening in finance. Continue reading →

The neoliberal road to autocracy – a response to criticism

by Ann Pettifor

Ann Pettifor

In an article The neoliberal road to autocracy, published in April 2017 on the website of International Politics and Society, I wrote this:

Of all these promises, the one that globalisation’s advocates proclaim most strongly is the fall in poverty worldwide. But in fact the decline in absolute poverty is part of a longer trend that has been traced from 1820, according to World Bank data. And much of that fall is not due to open, global markets, but to scientific and especially medical advances. Indeed, the numbers of those living on less than $1 a day fell most rapidly between 1950 and 1970. During the “Keynesian” era, absolute poverty (measured in US$ terms) fell as rapidly as in the neoliberal era.

Continue reading →

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